The good news for West Virginia Attorney General candidate Doug Reynolds (D) is that for the first time in four months (the day after the West Virginia primary) his name has made it into a Wheeling "newspaper." The bad news is that he's featured in a 950 word hit-piece disguised as an opinion column by Intelligencer editor Mike Myer.
The Saturday column is titled "Claims Against Morrisey Untrue" and Myers is up to his old tricks of providing us with unsubstantiated claims and irrelevant evidence to make his case. For example, he asserts:
In fact, Democrats in the Legislature at one point tried to restrain Morrisey’s ability to go after the EPA. Did I mention Reynolds, of Huntington, is a Democrat member of the House of Delegates?
Democrats tried to do this? I searched and searched for what Myer describes. I could not find any mention of it and if you take the statement at face value, it seems highly unlikely that this occurred. It seems to me that no party in West Virginia would go on record as deliberately supporting the EPA against the state. Of course Myer provides no further information on his assertion and then he links Reynolds to whatever phantom legislation he's talking about by noting that he's a Democratic legislator.
About half of the column is devoted to drugs and here Myer rewrites history and then provides us with irrelevant data:
Another shot at the incumbent involves campaign contributions from drug companies. The implication is that Morrisey is in their pockets.
Really? During his tenure, Morrisey’s office has been involved in action against drug companies that resulted in $4.2 million in settlements against five of them. That’s a darned poor return on any investment they may have made in him.
A couple of obvious points: (1) the $4.2 million awarded was a result of his predecessor's actions -- he had little to do with it other than continuing with the lawsuit. As the Charleston Gazette-Mail described when the decision was announced:
In 2012, former Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed suit against 11 prescription drug distributors, alleging the companies turned a blind eye to suspicious orders from notorious “pill mill” pharmacies. Morrisey inherited the case in 2013, after ousting McGraw from office.
So McGraw, not Morrisey, deserves the credit but don't hold your breath waiting for that to come from Mike Myer. More importantly, (2) the "poor return on investment" is irrelevant when you're talking about an obvious conflict-of-interest. The third story on the CBS Evening News for June 2 examined Morrisey's "enormous appearance of a conflict, if not an actual conflict." Here is the transcript from that broadcast:
When he first took office in January 2013, Morrisey said he would step away from cases involving Cardinal. But five months later he met with senior representatives from the company.
"Is it appropriate for you to be meeting with two executives and a lawyer for Cardinal Health care when the state is suing them?" we asked.
"Well, as you know, the state meets with entities involved in cases all the time. And I would argue, we should meet with everyone involved across the board to go solve this problem," Morrisey responded.
Two months later, Morrisey again clarified his position -- saying he was now "permanently screened" from the case.
That didn't end the questions. Morrisey's wife is a lobbyist. One of her biggest clients? Cardinal Health.
While he's been in office, his wife's firm has made roughly a million and a half bucks from Cardinal. "I -- you'd have to talk and take a look at those numbers. I don't pay attention," Morrisey told us.
How does that not present an enormous appearance of a conflict, if not an actual conflict, CBS News wondered.
"Well I think we've gone through this, and people have determined that there was no conflict," Morrisey said in response.
CBS News, like candidate Reynolds and non-Ogden newspapers in the state (for instance, see here and here) think this is a problem for Morrisey while Mike Myer and the Ogden newspapers in the state have totally ignored it. Now that Morrisey's opponent is spending money on this, Myer has come out gun's-a-blazin' at Reynolds for daring to raise the issue that Ogden newspapers have so neatly ignored.
If the race is close, I think we'll see more hit pieces like this in the future.
A final thought
In the first two paragraphs of the column Myer explains what he calls the "big-lie theory of politics" before he accuses Reynolds of using it. He concludes:
That’s the suggestion that if you want to smear someone or something, go all-out. The more sweeping the claim, the better — especially if there’s no truth to it.
I believe psychologists call this "projection."