Attorney General Darrell McGraw's momentary flash of temper recently actually may serve him well. It distracts attention from who he really is.
For several days, coverage of the election campaign for attorney general in West Virginia has been dominated by the incident. Briefly - so we can move on to more important shenanigans by McGraw - here's what happened: During an event in Milton, McGraw noticed a man with a video camera pointed at him. The attorney general confronted the man, who works for Patrick Morrisey, the candidate running against McGraw. Not content to berate the cameraman, McGraw jerked the camera out of his hands and turned if off.
Lots of ink and air time has been devoted to McGraw's temper tantrum. Every drop and every second has been a gift to the attorney general, because it isn't coverage of actions that have cost West Virginians dearly.
Here's some of what voters ought to be concerned about regarding McGraw:
* During his term as a justice on the state Supreme Court, McGraw wrote an opinion that expanded the eligibility of a few state employees for pensions. Among those who would have benefited, had the Legislature not negated the ruling, was ... Darrell McGraw. He would have been awarded pension credit for time spent working as a part-time janitor while he was a West Virginia University student.
* McGraw has had a temper for a long time. In 1979, according to a published report, McGraw as a Supreme Court justice took a group of reporters to the Kanawha County Jail. He wanted to show them where an inmate had committed suicide. He became involved in a physical altercation with sheriff's deputies and was charged with battery.
* In 1987, also according to a published report, McGraw filed a criminal complaint against a journalist. He accused the journalist of making obscene and harassing phone calls. McGraw refused to tell State Police what the journalist allegedly said, and the complaint was dropped.
* McGraw is well known for steering state business, via no-bid contracts, to attorneys who have contributed to his election campaigns. Some of them reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars from lawsuit settlements in which they participated.
* During the 2004 election cycle, nearly one-third of the campaign contributions to McGraw were from sources linked to law firms who had been appointed as outside counsel by the attorney general, according to Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
* McGraw's office was involved in a $10 million lawsuit settlement with a pharmaceutical company. Obviously, the money should have been paid into the state treasury. McGraw's office kept it, handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to causes deemed worthy by the attorney general. Because the Medicaid program was involved, the federal government insisted it should have received a share of the settlement - and threatened to withhold more than $3 million in Medicaid funding to the state.
* Earlier this year McGraw's office touted a settlement of more than $33 million with mortgage companies. The money was to be used to help West Virginians allegedly harmed by the companies' practices. In June, McGraw gave $1 million of the money to Legal Aid of West Virginia. That was money that could have gone to Mountain State residents with mortgage problems.
* Earlier this year, McGraw announced he was opening a satellite office in the Eastern Panhandle - where Morrisey lives. Strange coincidence, don't you think?
Morrisey has been traveling throughout the state, pledging to provide West Virginians with an honest advocate who will ensure lawsuit settlement money goes to West Virginians - not into the attorney general's office to be doled out where it will do good at election time.
With less than six weeks to go before the election, McGraw no doubt is hoping voters won't remember his sorry record in government. The video camera incident, by distracting their attention, actually may have been a good thing for him, then.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and the Wheeling News-Register. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org