CHARLESTON – A Washington, D.C., political consultant says former state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry lacks humility and that he should have accepted responsibility for his actions.
David Browne wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver prior to Loughry’s Feb. 13 sentencing. Browne is the owner of David Browne Media, which has produced campaign advertisements for a host of West Virginia political candidates over the last decade.
At Loughry’s Feb. 13 sentencing, Copenhaver mentioned the letter he had received Feb. 11. Federal prosecutors didn’t mind having it admitted into the record, but Loughry and his attorney John Carr asked that it not be considered. Copenhaver admitted the letter, and it appeared in the case docket Feb. 27.
“I met Allen Loughry at the request of a friend and a judge who asked me to help Allen on his campaign,” Browne wrote. “I was told, ‘The boy won’t have two nickels to rub together, but he’s brilliant.’
“I do what judges ask, so I met with him at his home in Charleston.”
Browne wrote that he liked Loughry and his family immediately. He details talking with Loughry’s wife and their son, who was undergoing cancer treatments at the time of Loughry’s election campaign in 2012.
Browne also described the car Loughry drove at the time.
“We spoke next to it, before I headed back home” Browne wrote in the letter dated Jan. 20. “The window would not go all the way up, so it had plastic and tape, and a hole in the floor was covered over with cardboard.”
Even though a majority of his work was with Democratic candidates, Browne did help with the Republican Loughry’s campaign. Some of Loughry’s campaign ads are featured on Browne’s companies social media sites.
“When Allen won, I never had an individual as grateful, and I still have never seen anyone so ready to get to work,” Browne wrote. “Every night, he stayed in that building beyond everyone else. He read every piece of paper associated with every case. He loved his job, and he loved the law.”
Still, Browne wrote that he realizes Loughry should have “reported every penny for travel” and shouldn’t have used a state vehicle for personal use. But Browne said he could read between the lines.
“When I read that he went to his home county, I know that he was taking (his son, who) … had never been able to visit his grandparents before,” Browne wrote. “I also spoke to Allen when he was in California and later learned that he put too many miles on the rental car.
“I know that he was taking (his son) to see the aquarium in Monterey and the mountains in Yosemite, trips that would have been unthinkable only a couple of years before.”
Browne says Loughry and former state Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury often butted heads.
“Allen’s biggest failure was lacking humility,” Browne wrote. “When he was running, Steve Canterbury told him, ‘You can’t win. I thought you were smart enough to know this.’ The two of them never saw eye-to-eye, and Allen held that grudge.”
Browne also says Canterbury “used the office renovation as a way to get back in (Loughry’s) good graces.”
“Allen should have been humble and forgiven Steve,” Browne wrote. “He also should have realized that the court’s lack of procedures and rules did not mean that he could do as he pleased.
“He wrote a rather lengthy book about people who thought that same way and ended up in the same place Allen finds himself. Most of all, he should have accepted responsibility with the prosecutors, but he thought his argument was right, regardless of whether what he did was right.”
Canterbury disputes Browne’s account.
“I do not recall ever speaking to him (Browne) about Loughry’s campaign,” Canterbury said when contacted by The West Virginia Record. “I don’t remember seeing him during Loughry’s campaign, and I’m sure I never said what he’s quoted me in his letter as saying.
“I will say, I think his commercials are absolutely brilliant. From the ones I’ve seen, he’s a creative genius.”
Canterbury also said he did not do any work to get back on Loughry’s good side.
“I had the same amount of enthusiasm as I did for all of the projects I worked on at the Supreme Court, including Loughry’s remodeling, whether it was court initiatives or creating new courts to help the citizens of the state,” Canterbury said. “But I never did it to get back in his good graces.
“I don’t know why David Browne decided to even bring me up in his letter. I don’t understand the thinking. He was clearly saying things he could not have knowledge of. The only thing I think he got right is that Loughry lacks humility. I think that’s right.
“I do not understand why this guy chose to pick a fight with me.”
Canterbury did say he did meet Browne a few times. The first, he said, was after former Supreme Court Justice Menis Ketchum won a seat on the court in 2008. Browne had done commercials for Ketchum’s campaign, including the popular “Ketchup” ad.
“I bumped into him after Menis Ketchum won,” Canterbury said. “Maybe one minute. The only other time I recall meeting him is after Loughry won and was on the Supreme Court.
“I met with him, Menis Ketchum, Allen Loughry and Sue Bell Cobb about the state using an e-filing system. Allen and Menis were very impressed with her presentation. That is my entire interaction with Mr. Browne.”
Cobb is a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. She unsuccessfully ran for governor of Alabama in 2018. Browne has worked on her campaigns. The company with the e-filing system she and Browne were discussing did get a contract with the state.
In closing his letter, Browne asks Copenhaver to be lenient with Loughry’s sentencing.
“I do not believe that extra months in incarceration will make any difference in Allen’s future behavior or deter any future elected officials,” Browne wrote. “Hopefully, the press coverage has already done that. Allen’s once promising career is destroyed forever. I hope his family does not have to be destroyed as well.”
Campaign finance reports and online searches show Browne has worked on West Virginia Supreme Court campaigns for Ketchum in 2008, Loughry and Jim Rowe in 2012 and Bill Wooton in 2016.
In addition, he did ads for Doug Reynolds’ campaign for state Attorney General and for Booth Goodwin’s gubernatorial campaign in 2016. He also has produced commercials for the Huntington law firm of Greene Ketchum, where Ketchum worked before he was elected to the Supreme Court.
Browne’s name or his company do not appear on Loughry’s 2012 campaign finance reports. But someone named Colleen Browne, which is Browne’s wife’s name, appears as a fundraising consulting and fundraising coordinator. She was paid at least $2,749.98.
“Maybe Mr. Browne worked on Allen’s campaign for free,” Canterbury said. “He seems to only work for Democrats. So, did he get paid for working for a Republican as a subcontractor? Or did he just do it for free? I can only speculate, but I do know his speculation about me is way off the mark."