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This Editorial originally provided by
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 www.lincolnstandard.com)
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 https://www.wvsao.gov/vista/login.asp
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
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
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. )