Longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw was a fierce enforcer of state consumer protection laws, winning billions from firms and fly-by-night outfits that committed consumer violations.
For West Virginia illness and death caused by cigarettes, McGraw won two lawsuit settlements from 23 tobacco firms for $1.7 billion and $200 million.
In 2002, McGraw won $56 million from 15 coal companies that used "independent contractors" to duck state workers' compensation obligations.
Also in 2002, Purdue Pharma paid West Virginia $10 million for devastation caused by OxyContin painkiller pills in West Virginia -- and the state later got another $24 million.
In 2009, McGraw won $15.8 million from Eli Lilly and Co. for wrongful sales of a schizophrenia drug.
In addition to his major settlements, McGraw pursued thousands of small actions against "payday lenders" and other two-bit operators. In 2010, he got $214,000 in refunds for 226 West Virginians from several loan companies.
At that time, McGraw said his Consumer Protection Division received 250,000 complaints a year, and had 116 cases pending. He sent "consumer advocates" to schools and senior centers around the state to warn about Internet frauds and other dubious deals.
When Republican Patrick Morrisey won the attorney general post last fall, various West Virginians wondered if he would scuttle McGraw's crackdown on consumer offenses. The answer may be yes, because Morrisey already halted the advocates operation.
As Statehouse reporter Eric Eyre reported Sunday, one of Morrisey's first acts in office was a Jan. 31 edict telling the advocates: "You are NOT to schedule any events / appearances, and you are to CANCEL any that you have scheduled."
After that, the advocates spent months in limbo. Recently, Morrisey asked them to suggest ways they could help small business owners comply with the state's consumer laws. Now he refuses to tell the public his future plan, saying it's a "personnel issue."
Meanwhile, Morrisey also fulfilled a "pro-life" campaign vow by trying to crack down on women's health clinics. Luckily, Charleston women's rights groups are fighting back, refusing his demands for explanations of their operating procedures. We agree with West Virginia Free director Margaret Pomponio, who said:
"We hope Mr. Morrisey will get on with the people's business and stop his politically motivated inquisition."
And Dr. Gorli Harish of Kanawha Surgicenter pointed out that Morrisey didn't target other types of medical clinics -- only those that terminate pregnancies.West Virginia has become a "red state" and now elects hard-line Republicans. This is a sample of what results. Presumably, he will keep trying to use his statewide office to pursue a Tea Party agenda instead of looking after the best interests of West Virginians.