Ever since the departure of the previous state attorney general, whom they let do as he pleased for 20 years, the West Virginia House of Delegates has feigned concern that the reformer who replaced him might run amok.
“Ironic” doesn't half describe it.
For two decades Darrell McGraw used public funds for self-promotion and awarded contingency contracts to cronies. In stark contrast, his replacement in the post, Patrick Morrisey, has from the start operated the attorney general's office in an ethical, professional manner, restoring to state coffers all monies recovered in legal settlements.
Four years ago, and 20 years too late, the delegates passed the Attorney General Ethics and Accountability Act (House Bill 4490) by a strict party-line vote of 52 Democrats to 44 Republicans.
“House Bill 4490, as it currently stands, will cost the state many millions of dollars, jeopardize existing investigations and lawsuits, and compromise the Attorney General’s ability to fight for the Second Amendment and jobs in West Virginia,” a Morrisey spokesman warned at the time.
The bill bogged down in the Senate and never became law.
Last year, however, and this year again, an overwhelming majority of delegates passed a bill to restrict the attorney general’s retention and use of lawsuit settlement funds and require them to be deposited to the state’s General Revenue Fund. Despite its broadly bipartisan support in the House, last year's bill stalled out in the Senate, where this year's bill is likely to meet a similar fate.
“This continues to be a flawed bill. However, we’re confident the Senate doesn’t have the same interests as some in the House,” said a Morrisey spokesman. “[N]obody wants the Attorney General to be limited in his ability to enforce consumer protection laws and fight the state’s drug epidemic.”
The spokesman emphasized that Morrisey has “already returned more than $39 million to the Legislature through efficient management of our settlement funds and will continue to do so in keeping with his promises.”
McGraw was the one who needed to be reined in, not Morrisey.