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Seizing on a Moment: Justice, Mooney campaigns address auction of Justice owned-properties

Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that efforts by a bank to auction off parts of his business empire was an attempt to pressure him while he runs for U.S. Senate. (Photo courtesy of the West Virginia Governor’s Office)

CHARLESTON — A day after it was announced that properties at the Greenbrier Sporting Club owned by Gov. Jim Justice were set to go on the auction block, Justice urged the public not to worry about his businesses, while Justice’s top GOP opponent for U.S. Senate drew attention to the impending sale.

Speaking during his weekly administration briefing Wednesday at the State Capitol Building, Justice acknowledged that Virginia-based Carter Bank and Trust issued notice in local newspapers Tuesday about an auction of properties associated with the Greenbrier Sporting Club in White Sulphur Springs scheduled for Tuesday, March 5, on the steps of the Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg.

“When you hear the real truth, you’re going to be appalled. That’s all there is to it,” Justice said. “I will tell you that Carter Bank has been terrible; beyond belief, terrible more than your wildest dreams, and we’re not going to put up with it anymore.”

Justice said confidentiality agreements prohibit him from talking in detail about the legal disagreements with Carter Bank, but he said the bank is doing him and his family wrong after a more than 20-year relationship going back to his friendship with the bank’s founder, Worth Carter.

“We absolutely were the greatest of friends, and I gave the eulogy at Worth Carter’s funeral because everyone knew how close we were and that’s what the family wanted me to do,” Justice said. “Then Worth Carter dies and the bank turns upside-down and turns 1,000% in a 180-degree direction. Since that time, we’ve been paralyzed in our businesses over and over and over by the activities of this bank.”

The auction is meant to satisfy more than $300 million in personal loan guarantees to Carter Bank owed by Justice, First Lady Cathy Justice, and son Jay Justice. In a hearing in the circuit court of Martinsville, Va., last month, a judge rejected arguments by attorneys for the Justice family trying to block collection of the multi-million-dollar debt owed to the company.

Attorneys for the bank filed 21 confessed judgments – allowing a debtor to obtain a judgment in court against a debtor for non-payment – since last year against Justice and his family for multiple Justice-owned companies seeking more than $300 million plus interest and attorney fees.

In November, the Justice family filed a federal lawsuit against Carter Bank on behalf of 15 Justice-owned companies – including the Greenbrier Resort and the Greenbrier Sporting Club Development Co. Inc. – seeking more than $1 billion in damages from the bank, accusing the bank of unlawful misconduct.

“We’re going to push back, and we’re going to push back like you can’t imagine,” Justice said. “We think our claims are absolutely valid and justified.”

Justice business issues, including the Carter Bank drama, have become a focus by Justice’s Republican opponents for the U.S. Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Justice, the frontrunner in the race, announced his campaign last April around the same time as Carter Bank began to seek repayment in full for the defaulted loans. Justice accused the bank of using his political campaign to pressure him.

“I’m the governor and I’m a senatorial candidate and everything, and Carter wants to use that to be able to use the media to cause a firestorm to be able to put pressure,” Justice said. “We’re not going to put up with it.”

U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., has been using Justice’s business woes to urge Republican and unaffiliated primary voters to reject Justice and support Mooney’s U.S. Senate campaign.

“As has been publicly reported, the governor’s wages have been garnished. His helicopter has been either missing or repossessed, and we are in the middle of what looks like a fire sale of many of his major assets,” said Mooney campaign advisor Mark Harris. “This is clearly an unprecedented event for a sitting governor, let alone a sitting governor running for U.S. Senate.”

Harris held a press call with reporters Wednesday afternoon demanding answers from Justice about the state of his personal finances. Harris said Justice has frequently cited his prowess as a businessman for why voters should send him to the U.S. Senate. Justice has also said he does not intend to self-fund his political campaign, relying on campaign contributions and support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund through Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Congressman Mooney and the Mooney campaign really believe it’s time for the governor to answer questions about his financial situation, because this was sort of the predicate of his entire race to be frank,” Harris said. “It’s become clear that without self-funding his campaign, he really lacks the funds to move forward.”

According to his year-end 2023 report with the Federal Election Commission last week, the Justice campaign raised $571,607 between October and December, bringing their election year-to-date contributions to $2.1 million. Justice is heading into the first quarter of 2024 with $1.23 million in cash-on-hand.

Of the $571,607 raised during the quarter, $34,000 of that was transferred from the Justice Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee with the NRSC, which raised $494,000 for the quarter and election year-to-date, leaving it with $12,423 in cash-on-hand.

According to Justice’s financial disclosure report filed in September 133 days past a May 15 deadline, Justice and Cathy Justice reported more than $253,000 in salaries and between $25,000 and $73,000 of income derived from dividends and interest from 10 out of 147 separate assets. The estimated worth of the assets was between $37.5 million and more than $1.9 billion.

The Justices reported between $37.5 million and $108.1 million in liabilities between lines of credit, promissory notes, and judgments. Four of those lines of credit are from Justice-owned businesses, including the Greenbrier Hotel Corp., Tams Management, Bellwood Corp., and Black River Farms.

Justice and his companies have run into significant financial issues over the last several years, including more than $1 billion in personal loan guarantees to financial institutions, unpaid debts to vendors, unpaid federal mine safety penalties, wage garnishments, and other issues. In previous court cases, it has been alleged that Justice uses his companies to play shell games by hiding assets.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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