This Editorial originally provided by The Lincoln-Standard

November 26, 2007

Part Three - The huge return on the campaign investment

(Editor's note: In many states, low-numbered license plates are traditionally viewed as political perks that each governor gets to pass out. This is the third story in a three-part series that looks at apparent unwarranted privileges and personal gain that come with getting a low-number license plate in West Virginia. This series has focused primarily on license plate number "5," which was issued to Lyle Stowers, 2nd Vice Chairman of the West Virginia Democrat Party. Parts one and two can be found online at

From Staff Reports

Sept. 24, 2002, Lincoln Leasing Company of Hamlin was awarded a $1.8 million contract with the West Virginia Division of Highways for building demolition and asbestos abatement in Fayette, McDowell and Wyoming counties. The request for release of final settlement of the contract happened Nov. 10, 2005.

Lincoln Leasing's president is Lyle Stowers, Second Vice Chairman of the West Virginia Democrat Party. Stowers was also the Democratic campaign fundraising chairman for the southern district of West Virginia for both the former-governor Bob Wise and current-governor Joe Manchin. He also was issued license plate No. 5 by Wise and has kept the low-numbered plate under Manchin.

During the Wise administration, Lincoln Leasing was awarded several contracts with the state. Under the current Manchin administration, the company continued to be awarded contracts while Stowers continued to help raise money for the campaigns through personal donations from himself, his family, his friends, his employees, and other political connections.

On the surface, it appears Stowers' company has benefited from large state contracts after the Democratic candidate for governor he helped raise campaign funds for and donated to himself won the election.

Several other state contracts under both the Wise and Manchin administrations have been awarded totaling in the millions of dollars for his company. Lincoln Leasing was awarded approximately $12 million in payments for state contracts under the Wise administration. These payments can be viewed online at and clicking on "Global Vendor Search," then entering "Lincoln Leasing."

In regard to the $1.8 million contract, it was originally bid for $1,809,522.40. When final settlement was made, Lincoln Leasing received $1,846,842.42. The company was able to give an estimated bid and then be awarded the contract, only to add additional charges for work not estimated.

This disturbing trend with state contracts gives the appearance that companies working for the state can add charges without state oversight.

Those participating in fundraising efforts and donations and then being able to bid on and being awarded large state contracts and state grants also gives the appearance of wrongdoing, but is it illegal? Is there anything wrong with helping to raise millions of dollars to get someone elected governor and then getting millions of dollars in state contracts for your company after they take office?

West Virginia law, Code 3-8-12(d), says "no person entering into any contract with the State of its subdivision, or any department or agency of the State, can make a donation to a political campaign." So when read and interpreted to the extreme it would mean that it would be virtually impossible for anyone to make a donation.

This interpretation of the law would seem to include teachers in the state who are contractual employees as well.

The problem appears to be interpretation of West Virginia Code and enforcement of the law.

The West Virginia Secretary of State and Attorney General have investigative powers, however they have absolutely no prosecutorial power when it pertains to violations of state election law. That power is left to the county prosecutor to enforce and many times they are on the same political slates and factions as those under investigation.

Next week, The Lincoln Standard will wrap up this series with an overview and will speak with representatives of the Secretary of State's office, the Attorney General's office, and the West Virginia State Ethics Commission regarding election laws, investigations, and what is being done or not being done to clean up political corruption in West Virginia.

(Documents obtained through the use of a Freedom of Information request. )

Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246