— In advance of next month’s General Election, The Register-Herald invited all candidates on the ballot for U.S. Senator, U.S. House of Representatives, Governor, State Supreme Court, Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner to appear before our editorial board. Those candidate interviews conclude today with Republican Patrick Morrisey who is running for Attorney General.
Prescription drug abuse has become a major issue and concern for communities throughout West Virginia. As the attorney general, what can you do to help combat and decrease these problems?
MORRISEY: Prescription drug abuse is a very serious problem facing the state. As Attorney General I would like to work very closely with the county prosecutors to develop a state-based strategy to tackle prescription drug abuse. The fact is, right now, the Attorney General’s Office lacks the criminal prosecutorial authority to really go after some of the people who are responsible for this problem. So, what we should do is develop a new structure, which would allow the state attorney general to work in tandem with the local prosecutors to really go after and target the individuals peddling these illicit drugs and make sure we have a healthy workforce that’s able to take advantage of the work opportunities here in the state. The prescription drug abuse problem is very real. A lot of businesses that I’ve talked to have struggled to find workers who are clean. That’s a real problem. Something needs to be done about that. Darrell McGraw waited until the election year before he began acting on that.
What do you think are the best ways to effectively spend the office of attorney general’s budgeted money and lawsuit settlement awards?
MORRISEY: This is an area where I significantly disagree with my opponent. I believe that when you have settlement money, you should take that money and return it back to the legislature and the taxpayers. Period. Darrell McGraw has received settlement money over the years that he’s placed into the personal piggy bank of the Attorney General to spend as he sees fit. I disagree with that approach. The fact is, under the West Virginia Constitution there is a Legislative Branch and an Executive Branch, also a Judicial Branch. And, the different branches have different functions. I want to ensure the Attorney General’s Office is not usurping the powers that are traditionally left to the Legislature. And, under article 10, section three, the Legislature should be deciding how monies are going to be disbursed and spent in the state. We have seen for many years that the Attorney General’s Office has taken the settlement money and used the money to engage in self-promotional activities. I’ll give you a couple specific activities. First, this year, in the mortgage settlement there’s approximately $6.1 million of discretionary dollars that the office of the attorney general gets to spend as he sees fit with certain basic parameters related to consumer education. Is it any coincidence that the election year spending of the attorney general has gone up and may be 10 times more than what was spent in previous years? No. That’s because the office of attorney general is diverting portions of those dollars to promote the attorney general’s re-election campaign. That’s wrong and that practice will stop after I’m elected attorney general.
But, there are a number of examples of how the office of attorney general has made errors in recent years because of how they’ve misused the settlement money. In the Purdue Pharma case, McGraw’s office took the money, diverted it away from the Medicaid program, thereby causing a loss of several million dollars in federal matching money to the Medicaid program. This is a program intended to serve the most vulnerable of our population and because Darrell McGraw was so busy focusing on self-promotion, he didn’t have the good legal judgment to ensure those monies were applied to the Medicaid program. Now, the federal government is pursing that money back and that’s just a major error that was made by Darrell McGraw.