CHARLESTON – A statewide legal watchdog group says elected officials and candidates who have accepted campaign contributions from a Mississippi-based lawyer should return the money.
West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse says Michael Fuller of McHugh Fuller Law Group, has been exposed in an investigation by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office for a series of alleged illegal straw donations.
"The West Virginia Secretary of State’s investigation exposed a series of alleged illegal straw donations orchestrated by personal injury attorney Michael Fuller to political campaigns in West Virginia, including to Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Justice Robin Davis’ 2012 re-election campaign," WV CALA says.
“The evidence makes it clear that millionaire personal injury lawyer Michael Fuller hoped to use his tremendous wealth to make even more money by gaining favor with many of West Virginia’s elected officials, including Justice Robin Davis," WV CALA Executive Director Roman Stauffer said. "We’re calling on any elected officials and former candidates who have taken money from Michael Fuller or his associates to return the money."
Secretary of State Mac Warner then referred the case to Kanawha County Prosecutor Chuck Miller, where he recommended the case be presented to a grand jury. In a letter to Miller, Warner called numerous suspicious donations “a scheme orchestrated by Michael Fuller Jr. and Steve Edwards.”
Stauffer said Edwards is the Florida resident who executed Fuller’s "straw man scheme," according to one of the donors interviewed during Warner’s investigation.
"The evidence provided to Prosecutor Miller included copies of the alleged fraudulent checks and a video confession from one of the straw donors who explained how Fuller planned and executed the illegal scheme," WV CALA said in a press release. "Despite being handed the evidence, Kanawha County Prosecutor Miller declined to pursue the case.
WV CALA said campaign finance filings show several political campaigns and organizations have accepted political cash from people with connections to Michael Fuller, his law firm or those associated with him. The list includes state Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis ($27,500), Former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ($22,000), the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee ($20,000), Letitia Chafin for Supreme Court ($18,100), Justice Margaret Workman for Supreme Court ($2,000) and Justice Menis Ketchum for Supreme Court ($1,000).
“We cannot continue to grow our economy and get people working again if job creators believe that predatory personal injury lawyers like Michael Fuller have free reign over our courts, legislature and governor’s mansion," Stauffer said. "Every West Virginian deserves a fair day in court, but unfortunately some personal injury lawyers are seeking special treatment in hopes of reaping a jackpot justice payout. West Virginia is not for sale, and we will continue to expose those driven by lawsuit greed."