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Newly elected A.G.: Change is coming to W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General-elect Patrick Morrisey has spent the past 20 years representing pharmaceutical and health-care corporations as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

The bulk of Morrisey's campaign contributions this year came from individuals and political action groups affiliated with those industries.

However, Morrisey said Thursday he doesn't have any marching orders from Big Pharma or any other corporate lobby.

"I am an independent voice," Morrisey said after a news conference outside the state Capitol. "I am not beholden to any interest other than the citizens of West Virginia."

In Tuesday's election, Morrisey became West Virginia's first Republican attorney general in 80 years, defeating longtime incumbent Darrell McGraw. McGraw's office frequently battled the same big corporations that supported Morrissey during the testy race.

On Thursday, Morrisey said, "This is going to be a much different Attorney General's Office."

Morrisey said the office would be more aggressive in fighting state and federal regulations that hurt West Virginia jobs. He said he would make it a priority to improve West Virginia's business climate.

"I want to look at those regulations and see what's working, and what's not," Morrisey said. "We will create a better business environment. The Attorney General's Office can play an important role in making that happen."

After taking office on Jan. 14, Morrisey said he will hold a "jobs summit" to identify regulations that limit business growth in West Virginia. The next step would be to challenge those regulations in court, Morrisey said.

"We will not be shy about saying what we think of those regulations," he said. "The Attorney General's Office will be the point."

As part of his "17-point plan" for his first 100 days in office, Morrisey said he also plans to "take on" the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said he will file lawsuits against federal regulations that limit coal production.

"Coal still has to be a very top priority," he said.

The incoming attorney general also plans to target President Obama's health-care reform law. Morrisey said "Obamacare" would damage West Virginia's economy.

"I'm going to work hard to ensure that the bad parts of Obamacare don't go into effect," he said. "We want to make sure health care gets reformed the right way."

During Thursday's news conference, Morrisey denied rumors that he plans to gut the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division, which has filed numerous lawsuits against unscrupulous businesses and secured millions of dollars in refunds for West Virginians in recent years.

Morrisey said any talk that he plans to scale back consumer protection is "fictional."

"I know there's a lot of good work being done by employees in Consumer Protection," he said. "I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater."

However, Morrisey said, he likely will reduce some Consumer Protection Division expenses. Morrisey alleged that McGraw has used the division as a campaign advertising tool -- promoting his name and office under the guise of "consumer education." Morrisey plans to enact a ban on all "broad-based office advertising" for at least six months before the next election.

Morrisey also said he will bar "self-promoting" trinkets -- pens, pencils, magnets -- emblazoned with the attorney general's name. He criticized McGraw for such practices during the campaign.

"There won't be any trinkets with my name on them," Morrisey said.

Since being elected, Morrisey said, he has spoken with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's chief of staff, Rob Alsop, and representatives of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, the state Ethics Commission and McGraw's office.

He said he plans to announce his transition team next week and hold a series of news conferences over the next several months. He promised that the Attorney General's Office will be more "transparent" under his watch.

"The election is over," Morrisey said. "It's time for us to govern."

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.


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