merely trying to cast sunlight onto
whether some state lawmakers use their public office for
Eisner said. Stronger disclosure laws keep politicians honest and help
public trust in government, he said.
"What's the danger in people having all the information they can about
their public officials?"
he said. "There's no question that the lack of
good disclosure handicaps our ability to analyze
what legislators are
up to. We're only scratching the surface."
For a prominent businessman in a small state, avoiding conflicts
of interest can be like
negotiating a minefield. Sen. Brooks McCabe,
D-Kanawha, has to be particularly cautious. He
gets income from five
businesses and trusts, and does business with seven government agencies
one of the highest number of financial interests in the state Senate,
according to disclosure
As a new senator, McCabe has relied on the state Ethics Commission to
guide him through that
"They will walk you through the gray areas," said McCabe. "And there
are a lot of gray areas."
For example, McCabe turned to the Ethics Commission when his banker
offered him and his wife
free tickets to a West Virginia University
football game. The banker had invited them to sit in
his stadium skybox
before, but McCabe wondered if in his new position as state senator,
should accept the invitation.
"The guy and I never even talk about politics," McCabe said. "Given
that history, the Ethics
Commission said it was OK." McCabe ended up
More recently, McCabe has been criticized for his support of a new
grocery store on the East
End. Critics say if the store locates at a
Washington Street site, a nearby housing project
being built by McCabe
The project was planned long before the proposed grocery store, McCabe
that he is using his position to influence the
location of the grocery store are unfair.
"Where I get frustrated is when people imply we do things on purpose
for our own benefit," said
McCabe. In the heat of battle, opponents can
use allegations of conflict of interest to further
their own arguments,
Still, McCabe has learned a lesson from the store debate.
"The mere raising of the conflict-of-interest issue is a red flag
telling us to look at the
issue carefully," he said. "We need to be
To contact staff writer Scott Finn, use e-mail or call 357-4323.