CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Democrats in the House of Delegates had enough votes Monday to pass a bill that would add an additional layer of ethics requirements on the state Attorney General.

The bill passed 52-44 despite claims from House Republicans that it’s unconstitutional and will throw the state into a constitutional crisis.

Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, called the bill a “vindictive political campaign against one person,” current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Jefferson County Republican who won the statewide office in 2012.

The bill would require Morrisey and future state attorneys general to meet additional ethics requirements mainly aimed at potential conflicts of interest.

“It’s a good bill,” claimed Del. Isaac Sponaugle, D-Hardy. “It does two good things. It preserves the integrity of the attorney general’s office and it protects the reputation of the attorney holding the attorney general’s spot.”

Morrisey has been criticized for not disclosing some conflicts of interest in connection with companies the state has filed lawsuits against.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Manchin, D-Marion, criticized Morrisey for not meeting with the House Judiciary Committee about the bill and discuss the problems he has with the legislation.

“This is not vindictive. If this were vindictive at least he could come before us and tell us that, tell us why it was vindictive,” Manchin said.

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, called the bill embarrassing and unconstitutional.

“This bill allows another branch of government to come in and determine rules that the judiciary has already established,” he said.

Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said Morrisey has brought this additional review on himself.

“Given the conduct and the questions—I think it’s only appropriate that we do that,” she said.

The bill also requires money won in lawsuits by the state Attorney General to be forwarded to the legislature for appropriation, an issue Morrisey has promoted since he ran for office.

Attorney General Morrisey’s office released a statement Monday evening:

“The Office of the Attorney General is deeply disappointed that the West Virginia House of Delegates today passed unconstitutional and highly partisan legislation. This bill targets one person in state government while not imposing similar standards on legislators or other Constitutional offices. House Bill 4490, as it currently stands, will cost the state many millions of dollars, jeopardize existing investigations and lawsuits, and compromises the Attorney General’s ability to fight for the Second Amendment and jobs in West Virginia. If this bill passes, it will plunge the state into a constitutional crisis.”

Del. Shott agreed.

“In many ways this is a sad situation. In many ways it’s a shameful situation and in only any way it’s simply outrageous,” Shott said.

The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

 

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Comments

  • Michael

    The house passed similar legislation in 2004 when McGraw was in office but it died in the Senate.

    The Republicans could have stood up and made sure ethic's issues were addressed but chose their party over WV. That is just a fact.

  • Harold Bennett Jr

    Democrats here in WV, just as in Washington are out of control. We have SOME great folks in our state legislature on both sides of the isle, but this is crossing the line. Why have we not found this necessary with some of the past AG's in the state? Get back to the principles of our Founding-fathers and bring back faith and integrity to our political system as they intended.
    This just more typical WV Democrat tactics.

    • Michael

      They did in 2004 -- it passed the house but died in the senate.

  • Pickle Barrel

    Gutless, cowardly Democrats. For years, they watched and did nothing as the previous AG made a circus of the office. Oh, sure…they had a hearing and called Fran Hughes on the carpet…and she said the AG's office would stop the shenanigans. Before you could blink an eye, they were right back in business. Now that there's a Republican holding the office, they've suddenly got "ethics" religion.

    I've had it with the failed leadership of this state. 80+ years of Democrat corruption, failure, waste, fraud and abuse has put us dead last in every ranking nationwide. It's a straight Republican ticket for me this fall.

    • Michael

      Passed a similar bill in 2004 with McGraw in office but it died in the Senate.

  • Brian

    Disclosure? Let's see how many legislators own rental property who stand to benefit from the continuation of the meth lab claims bill where $10,000 claims by landlords to the crime victims fund are made. Let's especially look at the senate who decided to keep paying since it "only made sense" in light of the pseudoephedrine via prescription bill .

  • Aaron

    As a taxpayer beholden to neither party, I would think our legislatures have more to do than play these childish games. I would much rather they focus on our real problems that include a budget shortfall of nearly $200 billion, crumbling infrastructure that faces tremendous funding problems and numerous other issues but leadership seems to be important to any of our legislatures. Instead they seem to want to play petty, childish games.

  • Frank

    Shame on you Doug Skaff, I thought you might have been a little more sensible while running for higher office.

  • wvman75

    Purely political, and transparently so. He's done a good job in accordance with the values of West Virginia citizens. That's why the democrats hate him. All the more reason to vote for him and against them.

  • Jerry Martin

    This is so obviously a political vendetta against the current AG. Absolutely shameful!

  • liberty4all

    The irony of all this lies in the fact that House R's bemoan this legislation (as do some posters) yet they are the same ones who trumpet the need to trample the 7th amendment protections regarding civil jury trials.

    1. Chamber of Commerce/House R's push for "tort reform".
    2. Chamber puts out its Judicial Hellhole Report as a phony "study" to try and convince the public to restrict its rights (and increase profit).
    3. The usual cast of characters (I.e. Sen. Cole, most state R's, Bray Cary) cite the "report" as reason for reform.
    4. Report is critical of Atty Gen'l Office and recommends restrictions.
    5. State Chamber drafts bill with restrictions on AG's office and submits to House.
    6. R's complain that bill is vindictive personal attack against Morrisey.
    7. Chamber/Steve Roberts (what a piece of work this one is) joins R's in condemning bill.
    8. Speaker Miley releases emails showing Chamber full of it and bill significantly mirrors draft submitted by Chamber to specifically address concerns over AG office raised in Report.
    9. Roberts pretends he had no idea about draft submitted by lead counsel for Chamber.
    10. Chamber gets what they wanted but join in the outrage expressed by those who do their bidding.

    What am I missing? Those who support the Chamber and most House R's got what they wanted but still aren't satisfied. If the AG was a Dem they would have passed this legislation in a heartbeat. Which is worse - faux outrage or hypocrisy?

    • Wirerowe

      Liberty. Most of your points seem plausible except your point about a phony study. This study is done by the national chamber and every year West Virginia comes out last. That is a fact. It defies imagination that somehow everybody in America is sitting around conspiring against West Virginia just so Steve Roberts can say West Virginia is last. Rather than your knee jerk reaction " was is it going to do to my pocketbook" you should look at the report objectively to see if there is anything that would move the state forward.

      • liberty4all

        When a spokesperson for the organization acknowledges that the report "never claimed to be an empirical study" and that the point of the campaign "is not to create an accurate snapshot of reality", then I think I am looking at it objectively in calling it a phony study. I guess we will agree to disagree.

        • Wirerowe

          That is consistent with a national survey of defense attorneys asking them to rank states on a serious of legal climate questions My point it is disingenuous for some to suggest that this is Steve Robert's study or that they skewed it to look bad for West Virginia. My guess is that plaintiff attorneys in states that ranked high or low most likely by your standards are not running around crying phones studies, the winning team usually is less likely to criticize the referees than is the losing team. Not much consolation but with kind of knowing how things go, I did find most of your other points believable.

    • The bookman

      Liberty,

      Two things. If this bill actually represented tort reform we would probably throw Morrisey under the bus and suffer the increased scrutiny above and beyond any other constitutional office holder.

      And second, if the AG were a democrat the Republicans would not be lining up to support it, as it would never have seen the light of day for a vote.

      • liberty4all

        One other thing missing from the outrage - a defense of Morrisey taking campaign money from a defendant company the State is suing, who hires his wife and whom he met with privately while an ongoing suit was pending against them.

        • The bookman

          Both correct and outrageous, and not uncommon in government. Look under any rock and impropriety or the appearance thereof lurks in this small state. Why single out Morrisey?

      • liberty4all

        The bill represents exactly what the Chamber wanted which was designed to address one of the criticisms "justifying" WV's status as a hellhole. For those who carry the Chamber's water and are willing to sacrifice our 7th Amendment rights for the sake of their profits - you reap what you sew.

        • The bookman

          I don't carry the chamber's water, and recognize Roberts for what he is, a pro business lobbyist who looks only at the business side of an issue. What is good for business is not always best public policy. And I am a business owner. But this bill is nothing more than a political sucker punch that results in nothing of substance, much like this entire session thus far. I think Morrisey has mishandled his public persona and has thumbed his nose at the established politicos in Charleston, and that's why he finds himself as a target. But the legislation is junk legislation. You know it and everyone else knows it. Just calling it like I see it.

    • Big Bob-E

      Don't try to use facts when posting on this site...they only confuse and antagonize this crowd. Look out now...here comes the full court press!!!

  • The bookman

    Keep handing them more rope. If the House can continue to provide this kind of negative press, they just might deliver a blow to the Senate numbers as well. They must be masters in the realm of personal injury, as they are really hurting themselves this session.

  • Independent View

    Where were these Righteous Democrats when McGraw was the AG for decades and thumbed his nose at the legislature, the courts and the WV Consititution?
    Oops, excuse my momentary lapse of memory---Mcgraw was one of them---a Good Ole Boy Dem!

  • Bob

    Why did they sit there all those years and never come down on McGraw? Did the AG have background info on them?

    I am still waiting for someone in the legislature, the press or the governor explain why there is a $200 shortfall of money?

    Why is Hoppy grilling them? Why does the Charleston a Gazette and Dominion Post explore why there's such a shortfall?

    Are Obamacare and Obama's EPA the reason? Let the press see if they can do "real" investigative reporting and tell the tax paying West Virginian just where the money is going?

    • Big Bob-E

      Blame your Papa...blame your mama...blame your sister...blame Obama!!! Good grief...make it stop.

  • Charleston

    I wonder if Del. Sponaugle would have applied his logic towards Justice Elena Kagan in Florida v. U.S. HHS? Anybody? Anybody?

  • Get Serious

    Far be it from me to think the Democrats would do anything to try to help the thousands of hurting people in this state or try to find ways to pass a real budget. No they are too busy pursuing political vendettas. Hang on everyone and just keep remembering that November gets closer every day. But also keep in mind that its going to take a while to fix 80 years of idiocy and neglect.

  • Realty check

    And yet they did nothing while old McGraw treated the office as his own personal playground, handing out money to trial lawyers and making them rich in the process. This is like the kid who is losing the game taking the ball and running home. I guess we will just have to trust Tim " the Tiger" Miley and the rest of the old ambulance chasers in the legislature when they say it's not a vendetta.