22 June 2007


The Charleston Gazette offers this colorful interactive map for this weekend's Festivall 2007.

Its animated features include Gov. Joe Manchin and the first lady roaring off on a motorcycle.

Also, keep your eyes on the Veterans' Memorial and the University of Charleston tower.

Ireland's Office Responds to Tennant

If she is elected secretary of state in 2008, Democrat Natalie Tennant may not have to worry about addressing the balloting snafu that marked the 2004 party primary, according to information provided to The Register-Herald of Beckley by incumbent Secretary of State Betty Ireland's office.

Tennant expressed concern to The Associated Press at her Wednesday candidacy announcement that neither Ireland nor the Legislature have taken steps to address the improper formatting of ballots that occurred during her unsuccessful 2004 bid for the office.

But Ireland Chief of Staff Ben Beakes tells the Beckley paper that 1) state law "bars the type of ballot design that plagued the 2004 race," 2) "the advent of electronic voting machines" make such formatting a moot point, and 3) the Legislature passed Senate Bill 616 earlier this year "that changed a lot of the ballot design."

They Voted For You: Energy

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., helped pass the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 in a 65-27 vote early this morning.

The Associated Press reports on the early-hours vote and the latest version of the bill.

They Voted For You: Contraception & Abortion

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, helped amend a foreign aid spending bill "to reverse a ban on contraception aid to groups overseas that offer abortions," as The Associated Press reports.

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, D-1st and D-3rd, voted against the amendment from Rep. Nita Lowery, D-N.Y.

They were among only 24 House Democrats to do so in the 223-201 vote, while Capito was among only 16 GOP members to support the amendment.

Mollohan, Capito and Rahall all voted against passage of the bill, which prevailed 241-178. Each again bucked the partly line on that vote.

Manchin Expands Drug Testing of W.Va. Hires

Gov. Joe Manchin had proposed drug screens for all prospective state employees in his keynote speech to the Legislature earlier this year. He followed up with an executive order Thursday directing the state Division of Personnel to draw up the necessary policy.

As The Associated Press reports, the policy will apply to anyone hired at an executive branch agency that reports to the governor's office. Several departments _ the State Police and the Division of Corrections, for instance _ already require drug testing of new hires.

But as AP also reports, state worker groups offer mixed reactions. Those aligned with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees approve of the new policy. They also herald Manchin's inclusion of contract workers. But a separate group representing state employees say drug testing will hurt morale.

The Charleston Daily Mail has articles on both Manchin's new policy and reactions among state workers. MetroNews also has the story.

21 June 2007

Mollohan Reminded of Federal Scrutiny

The Politico includes U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan in an article today, which highlights pending allegations against four key Capitol Hill "appropriators" to ask "if there is something endemic to the culture of the appropriations committees."

Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee on House Appropriations, Mollohan "is under investigation for steering money to nonprofits he was linked to, although he denies any wrongdoing," the article said. "Mollohan has recused himself from any matter related to the Justice Department, although Republicans continue to hit the Democrats over the Mollohan allegations, arguing that he should no longer chair the subcommittee."

The 1st District Democrat is grouped with Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and fellow Reps. John Doolittle and Jerry Lewis, both R-Calif.

They Voted For You: Power Lines

As The Associated Press reports, "The House rejected an attempt Wednesday to block the government from imposing major new power lines in areas where states or local communities oppose them."

U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, helped block the amendment in the 174-257 vote.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd., voted for the amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., which aimed to "assure that no funds be made available to designate any geographic area as a national interest electric transmission corridor under the Federal Power Act by the Secretary of Energy."

The amendment was one of several proposed for a pending energy and water development spending bill.

20 June 2007

Tennant Launches Secretary of State Bid

Democrat Natalie Tennant marked West Virginia Day -- and her 9th wedding anniversary -- by formally launching her 2008 campaign for secretary of state today outside the state Capitol.

The Associated Press was on hand for the announcement, as was MetroNews (with audio).

In Report's Wake, Capito Discloses Earmarks

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito today released a list of nearly $93 million worth of earmarks that she plans to pursue for her 2nd House District as Congress crafts the 2008 federal budget.

Capito, R-W.Va., posted the list on her House web site, while the Charleston Daily Mail also has an article.

The listing comes one day after CNN reported that all three West Virginia House members had failed to respond to requests for earmark information.

"Projects included on this list are not guaranteed funding at the amount requested or any funding at all," Capito's office noted in today's press release. "These projects propose no new spending, as they seek to be included through the budgeted appropriations process."

They Voted For You: Coal-to-Liquids

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., voted for the "Tester Amendment" to the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, but the amendment was rejected 33-61.

Byrd and Rockefeller also voted against the "Bunning Amendment" to the bill. That measure was rejected 39-55.

Byrd and Rockefeller signed on as co-sponsors to the amendment from Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., which aimed "To establish a program to provide loans for projects to produce syngas from coal and other feedstocks while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reliance of the United States on petroleum and natural gas."

The amendment from Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., proposed "To provide standards for clean coal-derived fuels."

Those with coverage of the issue include The Charleston Gazette, MetroNews (with audio from Byrd's floor speech), The Register-Herald of Beckley

West Virginia Turns 144 - Updated

The Charleston Gazette offers this special section front to mark West Virginia Day. Among others marking the Mountain State's birthday: MetroNews and The Register-Herald of Beckley.

19 June 2007

DeLong Outlines Bid For Secretary of State

Having gained his legislative leadership post just five months ago, House Majority Leader Joe DeLong held Wheeling and Charleston press conferences Monday to announce his candidacy for secretary of state.

The Associated Press covered the latter appearance. I focused on how DeLong, D-Hancock, called for giving the secretary of state the power to investigate corporate fraud _ and how he plans to help create that power during his remaining time in the Legislature.

At least three fellow Democratic House members _ Lidella Hrutkay of Logan County, Dale Martin of Putnam County and Locke Wysong of Jefferson County _ were on hand for the Charleston announcement. Before that press conference, DeLong had mentioned that four or five Northern Panhandle-area delegates showed up for his Wheeling appearance.

Kanawha County School Board Member Pete Thaw also attended the Charleston appearance.

MetroNews also covered the state Capitol press conference, as did West Virginia Media. The Wheeling newspapers were on hand for his announcement there.

The Register-Herald of Beckley, meanwhile, spoke to Senate Majority Leader Billy Wayne Bailey about his plans to run for secretary of state.

The Wyoming County Democrat has filed precandidacy papers for an undeclared office, while both DeLong and fellow Democrat Natalie Tennant have both filed as precandidates for secretary of state.

(Incumbent Secretary of State Betty Ireland, a Republican, has not announced her 2008 election plans.)

I have noted that the precandidate filings are free and non-binding. The official candidate filings aren't until January.

I also note that Delegate Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, has filed precandidacy papers for Bailey's seat.

And finally, DeLong has set up a web site for his campaign.

The Struggle For Earmark Transparency

All three of West Virginia's U.S. House members flunked a recent survey by CNN that asked for their "earmark" requests for the upcoming fiscal year, the network reports.

They were in good company: "Staffers for only 31 of the 435 members of the House contacted by CNN between Wednesday and Friday of last week supplied a list of their earmark requests for Fiscal Year 2008, which begins on October 1, or pointed callers to Web sites where those earmark requests were posted," CNN reported.

A state-by-state pull-down menu notes that 68 members' offices declined the requests outright, while 329 did not respond (all three W.Va. members fall in the latter category). The article also said that "Seven members of the House said they had no earmark requests."

CNN contrasted its results with "the new Democratic congressional leadership's promise of "openness and transparency" in the budget process."

The full listing of responses is here.

18 June 2007

Gambling Remains The Hot Topic In W.Va.

The Associated Press provides context to the ongoing tumult over the state's problem gambler help program, with this article by Tom Breen.

"A look at gambling programs around the country suggests it’s difficult to make generalizations about a type of state aid that is still, in many places, in its infancy," the article said.

The Charleston Gazette's Phil Kabler, meanwhile, devoted part of his Sunday column to the print/cyber back-and-forth he's had on the topic with state Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha.

Last week, Kabler also interviewed Mia Moran-Cooper, the help program's former director, who's become something of a lightning rod.

The Gazette also assesses the financial impact of Jefferson County's rejection of the June 9 table games referendum, by weighing the potential contribution of Hancock County. Voters there will decide the table games question on June 30.

And in another development sure to spice up the gambling debate in West Virginia, the owner of the Jefferson County track has agreed to be purchased by Fortress Investment Group LLC and Centerbridge Partners LP in an $8.9 billion deal.

AP has a story on the announced acquisition plans, while track parent Penn National Gaming issued a press release.

Yes, W.Va. Has a Libertarian Party

But you wouldn't know it from recent election races. The Register-Herald of Beckley has a story about the party's efforts to regain ballot status, which it enjoyed earlier this decade.

Si Galperin, 1932-2007

Simon Hirsch "Si" Galperin Jr., 75, died Sunday after a career that included several terms in the Legislature and, most recently, as a lobbyist.

The Charleston Gazette has an article as well as the obituary.

Galperin represented Citizens for Clean Elections during the most recent legislative session.

17 June 2007

W.Va. Resurfaces in U.S. Atty Firings Story

This time because its southern federal district is among nearly two dozen where temporary U.S. attorneys face time in office "now limited under a law signed last week by President Bush," The Washington Post reports today.

As has been reported earlier, Kasey Warner was fired as the district's U.S. attorney in August 2005. Warner has questioned whether politics played a role in his ouster. U.S. Justice Department officials have countered by offering to explain why he was canned -- if Warner waives confidentiality (which he apparently has yet to do).

Chuck Miller was tapped to replace Warner, though not by the president. A career prosecutor in the office with a stellar reputation, was named U.S. attorney most recently by a federal judge in the district.

Though that step by the district court may suffice in Miller's case, "The Justice Department has signaled that it might seek to extend the terms of those U.S. attorneys appointed under a legal provision known as the Vacancies Act by reappointing them under another provision that would give them an additional four months on the job," the article also said.

"The developments add to growing personnel problems at the Justice Department in the wake of last year's firings of nine U.S. attorneys," the Post reports. "A quarter of all federal prosecutors are now on the job on an interim or acting basis -- reflecting a vacancy rate that is much higher than normal, according to department statistics."

Manchin Co-Signs China Letter

Gov. Joe Manchin is among 10 southern governors urging U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to approve a request by Delta Air Lines to offer nonstop flights from Atlanta to China.

The Associated Press has the story.

Delta wants to start flying nonstop to Shanghai in March, the article said. "Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein said the route is needed to serve the growing population in the Southeast as well as the region's booming trade with China."