Charleston, W.Va. -- Calling West Virginia's "culture of corruption" the biggest thing holding the state back, two-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney launched a think tank Thursday to study ethics reform in the state.
"From Morgantown to Mingo," Maloney said, referencing two recent scandals, "we have this convenient cronyism that we've allowed to get into this huge culture of corruption, and we just think it's the way things are done in West Virginia. Well, that's not the way things should be done."
Speaking at the University of Charleston, across the Kanawha River from the governor's mansion he twice hoped to occupy, Maloney also announced forthcoming studies on tax reform, energy independence and healthy lifestyles.
The think tank, Center for a Brighter Future, is nonprofit and officially nonpartisan -- although the premises of the think tank are laid out in Maloney's "Blueprint for a Brighter Future," a document from his last campaign for governor. Maloney was defeated by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in the 2011 and 2012 elections.
The blueprint talks briefly about President Barack Obama's "overreach" and "job-killing policies" -- not exactly nonpartisan language -- but Maloney said that was just left over and should not have been there.
"This has nothing to do with any political agenda; this is just about moving our state forward," Maloney said.
He said several times he is not running for any public office.
Maloney pointed to Morgantown businessman Patrick Esposito, who is on the center's board of directors and will lead the energy study, as an example of the center's nonpartisanship.
Esposito is a Democrat and was a counsel to former Democratic Governor Bob Wise.
Well-known conservative economist Arthur Laffer will lead the center's study of tax reform. Laffer, who worked in the Reagan administration, is best known as the namesake of the Laffer Curve, which says that at some point between 0 and 100 percent, tax rates can be set to maximize tax revenue.
Laffer has long argued that the tax rate that maximizes revenue is much lower than economists had thought. Reagan administration officials used his ideas to help justify tax cuts, believing that they would lead to increased tax revenue.
Sharon Maloney will lead the study on healthier lifestyles for West Virginians.
That study will be looking for ways to get West Virginians more active -- things like trail systems and bike paths.
"Sharon and I have always enjoyed being outdoors; we're on that trail around Cheat Lake every day," Bill Maloney said. "Everybody should get out and enjoy our great state. That's not a Republican or a Democrat thing. I'm probably more liberal on these issues than most people think. I like clean water, I like jumping in Cheat Lake, after church we're recycling every week."Other board members for the center include Charleston lawyer Tom Graff; Huntington car dealer Matt Miller, former state Sen. Sarah Minear, former Jefferson County commissioner Jim Ruland and Charleston businessman John Smallridge.