This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

June 18, 2006

Dictionary of deceit: Author compiles thick volume on W.Va.'s corrupt political leaders

By Paul J. Nyden
Staff writer

"Don't Buy Another Vote, I Won't Pay for a Landslide" is an encyclopedic account of corruption and wrongdoing by West Virginia politicians.

The colorful characters create the bread and circuses of local and state politics.

The text is sometimes autobiographical, when author Allen Loughry recounts his personal interactions and meetings with many West Virginia politicians in recent years.

The book - being released today - also has several historical chapters focusing on the rise of the coal industry in the 19th century, the Hatfield-McCoy disputes, Mother Jones and the mine wars in the early 1920s, including the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.

Most of the book examines specific political figures, such as John F.

Kennedy, Gov. Arch Moore, Warren McGraw and Jay Rockefeller, and their campaigns.

In his introduction, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., writes, "In 1946, when I started out in politics, if we had the current system of funding campaigns, I would not be in the United States Senate.

"I came out at the very bottom of the ladder. I came out of a coal camp with my fiddle and my brain," Byrd wrote. "I would have been out if it had depended on money. I would never have gotten to first base."

The Congressional Research Office, Byrd notes, found the total costs of campaigns for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives rose from $115.5 million to $1.16 billion from 1976 to 2004 - a tenfold increase during years when the cost of living tripled.

Loughry criticizes people on all sides of the political spectrum, both Republicans and Democrats.

The book often focuses on money spent on recent campaigns, including:

Rockefeller's races for governor in 1980 and senator in 1984; Moore's six statewide races beginning in 1968; and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's (R-W.Va.) spending battles against Charleston lawyer James Humphreys in the 2000 and 2002 Congressional races.

Loughry writes about Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin and his supporters, particularly Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, in the

2004 race that removed Warren McGraw from the Supreme Court. Spending in that race, which included $3.5 million raised by Blankenship's 527 group called "And For the Sake of the Kids," was the nation's most expensive judicial battle that year.

A particularly impressive feature of the new book is a beautifully printed collection of 160 historic photographs of political leaders from the Mountain State since its birth during the Civil War in 1863 to the present.

Past and Future

Loughry also criticizes the failure of public schools to teach history.

"It amazes me that the injustices that occurred in Southern West Virginia aren't being taught in history classes in every high school in America today....

"I wonder why we weren't taught in school that as we fought for the freedom of others in Europe [in World Wars I and II] West Virginia coal miners were living in poverty and pre-Civil War slave-like conditions."

Loughry, who grew up in Parsons in Tucker County, said he had not even heard of Mother Jones until about 10 years ago.

That criticism may be especially timely today, since more books are now available - but generally not used - to teach the state's often-forgotten history. "West Virginia: A History for Beginners,"

published in 1997 by John Alexander Williams, is one of them.

"Corruption - with a Capitol 'C,'" the chapter on Arch Moore, begins by noting Moore's popularity, his brilliance and amazing recall of people's names.

Other West Virginia governors, such as Democrat Wally Barron, engaged in questionable and illegal activities to improve their personal finances.

"But Gov. Moore has to rank at the top of the list," Loughry writes.

The book specifically mentions the deal with Pittston Coal right before he left office after his second term as governor on January 1977. Moore allowed Pittston to pay $1 million to settle a state lawsuit seeking $9.5 million to pay for costs to clean up after the Buffalo Creek flood that killed 125 people and destroyed most of 14 towns in February 1972.

Moore ended up serving time in a federal prison after he pleaded guilty in May 1990 to extorting more than $723,000 from coal operator H. Paul Kizer for Black Lung refunds and for lucrative state "super tax credits."

The book also has a chapter critical of Darrell and Warren McGraw.

Loughry criticizes Darrell McGraw for spending state money on television ads promoting his own name and his Consumer Protection Division, as well as buying trinkets displaying his name, including key chains, magnets, pens, pencils, whistles and packs of crayons.

Corruption convictions have been widespread.

Between 1984 and 1991, Loughry writes, 77 public officials in Southern West Virginia alone were convicted on charges including extortion, fraud, arson, drugs and tax evasion.

The book also has chapters on gambling legalization and sex scandals.

Loughry writes of legislative leaders who held major interests in once-illegal "gray machines," including Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, and Delegate Joe C. Ferrell, D-Logan.

After 2001, when lawmakers voted to legalize 9,000 slot machines at local bars, State Lottery revenues from gambling rose even higher.

By 2005, annual State Lottery revenues reached nearly one-third of the state General Revenue budget. (Some of those revenues went to pay track and machine owners, as well as those who won at the machines.)

Today, gambling revenues have balanced the state budget, but Loughry questions their long-term impact.

"When the problems that surround gambling begin to surface in neighborhood after neighborhood, people may begin to question whether gambling has actually produced more economic benefits than actual harm."

His discussion of sex scandals includes former Gov. Bob Wise, who had an affair with an economic development aide; former Delegate Clyde H.

Richey, D-Monongalia, who sexually abused an underage male page in 1979; and Bradford Keller, an aide to Wise who resigned after he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute in 2002. Keller, however, was soon found innocent of all charges after a jury trial.

Comprehensive Reform?

"The kind of campaign system that we have today sends the clear message to the American people that it is money, not ideas and not principles, that reigns supreme in our political system," Byrd wrote in the introduction.

"We need comprehensive reform," Loughry said. "People do care, even if politicians think they don't."

Loughry proposes that people running for political office sign his "Contract with the Voter."

The contract proposes more severe criminal penalties for political leaders who violate laws and would curtail funds going to discretionary-spending funds such as the Legislature's Budget Digest and Governor's Contingency Fund.

His proposed reforms would also prohibit special-interest groups from holding legislative receptions and place strict limits on campaign expenses for all offices from governor to county school boards.

Some of his more controversial proposals would eliminate political action committees, which often allow labor groups to help fund campaigns.

One proposal, perhaps offered in humor, would require ballots to include "None of the Above" as a choice for every office.

Loughry often mentions the role major economic interests play.

However, his book never really takes a close look at the profound influence various special economic interests exert over legislators and top state officials.

These interests obviously include: coal companies, oil and gas producers, physicians, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, real estate agents, beer and liquor distributors, insurance companies, banks, loan companies and other business groups.

Statistical connections between major contributors and legislators often go a long way toward explaining votes. But they are never examined.

Loughry, a lawyer, previously served as a senior assistant attorney general under Attorney General Darrell V. McGraw; special assistant to Rep. Harley Staggers, D-W.Va.; and an aide to Gov. Gaston Caperton. Earlier in his career, he was a reporter.

Today, Loughry is a law clerk for West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard.

More information about his book is available at: www.reform

To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.

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