20 July 2007

America's Mayor Coming to W.Va.

Add Republican Rudy Giuliani to the short but growing list of 2008 presidential hopefuls including West Virginia in their campaign trails.

As The Associated Press reports, the former New York mayor plans to appear at an Aug. 3 breakfast fundraiser at The Greenbrier resort.

The event coincides with the annual meeting of the West Virginia Coal Association, held at the resort Aug. 2-4.

The AP article notes that Giuliani has already gotten more money from West Virginians than any other GOP candidate (the leading Democratic _ and overall _ candidate among Mountain State donors is John Edwards, who held a March fundraiser in Charleston).

Bush Taps W.Vian For Leadership Post

Shepherdstown resident John Bresland could become the next chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board if the Senate confirms his nomination by President Bush, The Associated Press reports.

Bush first appointed Bresland in 2002 to the five-member board, "responsible for making safety recommendations to the nation’s chemical industry," the AP article said. "It also is charged with investigating major chemical accidents."

RFK Jr. in W.Va.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had strong words about West Virginia's politicians, and its press, in this Public Broadcasting interview.

The environmental lawyer and son of Bobby Kennedy also spoke to The Charleston Gazette during his three-day visit to the state. Kennedy was filming mountaintop removal mining sites for the upcoming adaptation of his 2004 book, Crimes Against Nature.

RFK Jr.'s trip follows that of country music's Kathy Mattea, a Mountain State native, to the southern coalfields. Both the Gazette and Public Broadcasting (with audio) were among those who covered her tour of mountaintop removal mining sites.

Byrd Denounces Dogfighting - Updated

(Update: YouTube has the video, while MetroNews offers audio.)

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., lashed out Thursday at those who engage in dogfighting, The Associated Press reports, in the wake of federal charges against Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Repeatedly denouncing the practice as "barbaric," the longest-serving senator in U.S. history also invoked the wrath of God during his floor speech, the AP article said.

The overall topic is not a new one for Byrd. His July 2001 speech on the conditions at industrial farms and modern slaughterhouses has been lauded by such groups as the Animal Welfare Institute as "what may be the most profound oratory for animals ever delivered in the US Congress."

And when it endorsed his successful bid for a record ninth term last year, the U.S. Humane Society called Byrd "
one of the strongest champions for animal welfare in Congress."

Senator Byrd in recent years has frequently taken to the Senate floor to condemn animal abuse, including intensive confinement of animals on factory farms and the barbaric practice of cockfighting," the group noted in its endorsement.

(Update II: YouTube now has the complete 10+ minute speech here, here and here. CNN has both an online story and video.)

19 July 2007

Quote of the Day

"I am confident that the hottest places in hell are reserved for the souls of sick and brutal people who hold God's creatures in such brutal and cruel contempt."

-- U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., during a Thursday floor speech denouncing the "barbaric" practice of dogfighting, as quoted by The Associated Press.

Hillary Clinton's Trip To W.Va.

With Sen. Hillary Clinton slated to appear at a Charleston fundraiser next week, plans for a second event in Hardy County have fallen through, The Charleston Gazette reports.

A campaign spokesman cited "timing and logistical constraints." But the article also said that "some media outlets" had made an issue of the Hardy event's initial venue.

Would-be donors had originally hoped to host Clinton, D-N.Y., at the Guest House on Lost River. The bed and breakfast markets itself to homosexuals, the Gazette reported.

But an unidentified local organizer told the newspaper that the bed and breakfast was ruled out because attending would require a 20-minute drive from Moorefield.

Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews' Talkline devotes his online column today to the scuttled fundraiser. Citing an email from organizer Sally Michael, Kercheval wrote that Hardy County supporters "expected to raise at least $50,000 at the event but were told by the campaign just in the last week that they needed a minimum of $150,000 to guarantee the event."

They Voted For You: Iraq

U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va., voted for the failed bid to advance a proposal "to provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq."

Needing at least 60 votes, the motion to cut off debate was 52-47.

The Associated Press has the story. The vote followed an all-night session engineered by Senate Democrats to underscore discontent over the war's handling, but "the Senate's action left no doubt that Bush's decision last winter to deploy additional troops to Iraq will have at least two more months to produce results," the AP article said.

Election '08: Precandidate Update

* The son of racetrack executive and table games advocate Ted Arneault has filed precandidacy papers for the House of Delegates seat being vacated by Majority Leader Joe DeLong, D-Hancock. Ted Arneault Jr., a 24-year-old teacher at Weirton Madonna High, told the Charleston Daily Mail that "My interests are really separate from the track.. I don't deal with the track on a daily basis."

* Delegate Richard Browning spoke to the Register-Herald of Beckley about running for the Senate seat being vacated by Majority Whip Billy Wayne Bailey, D-Wyoming (like DeLong, Bailey is planning a run for secretary of state).

* The Daily Mail also reports that Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy, a Democrat, may run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Vic Sprouse.

18 July 2007

They Voted For You: Iraq

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., was one of only three to vote against an amendment Tuesday "to express the sense of the Senate that it is in the national security interest of the United States that Iraq not become a failed state and a safe haven for terrorists."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., voted for the measure.

The amendment, which prevailed 94-3 with three not voting, was added to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.

Cheney's Secret Energy Task Force Revealed

West Virginia _ and coal _ were barely in the room, it seems, during the once-secret series of meetings that Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff held to craft a new national energy policy in 2001.

That according to The Washington Post, which landed the fabled list of meetings from "a former White House official" who supplied it after six years of clamors for it.

The accompanying list of meetings participants _ dozens of meetings involving about 300 groups and individuals _ appears to include only one West Virginia reference: an undated meeting with the staff of U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd.

The document obtained by the Post has Cheney's staff spelling the congressman's name as "Racal."

And other than two references to the National Mining Association, there seems to have been no coal-specific groups or individuals that met with Cheney and his task force. Petroleum interests appear to dominate the list.

Another tidbit: the Post reports that Cheney's staff met with representatives of 13 environmental groups as part of this task force in April 2001. But "by the time of the meeting with environmental groups...the initial draft of the task force was substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress."

Presidential Race: W.Va.

Democrat John Edwards still has more West Virginia contributions than any other presidential candidate. But Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Sam Brownback each outraised him in the Mountain State during the latest campaign finance reporting period.

The Associated Press has the details, while the Federal Election Commission offers the raw numbers.

The highlights:

* Edwards has raised $88,754 in the state, including $16,654 during the April-June reporting period. Overall, though, his campaign has raised $24.9 million;

* Clinton collected $28,045 from West Virginians during the latest period, to bring her in-state total to $38,795. Donors include state party bigwigs. As with Edwards, the W.Va. money is a mere fraction of the $52.5 million her campaign has raised overall;

* Brownback has raised "only" $2.6 million overall, so the $25,520 that West Virginians have given him (all in the latest report) is about 1.8 percent of his total. His W.Va. contributors are almost entirely coal and industrial interests: mining equipment suppliers, hydraulic lubricant companies, electric motor repair shops, coal mining consultants, etc.

* Rudy Giuliani has collected $29,050 in the state, and is the only other candidate whose W.Va. contributions exceeded $10,000 during the filing period. But those numbers are dwarfed by his campaign-wide total of $29.8 million to date.

* Republican Mitt Romney has gotten $22,530 from Mountain State donors, including $8,030 during the filing period. His overall total is $31.4 million.

* Democrat Barack Obama has raised $16,299 in-state, with $7,546 during the filing period. His campaign is vying with Clinton's for top honors in fundraising, having gathered $58.6 million.

W.Va. money to the rest of the field (t0 date):

* Democrat Bill Richardson - $8,350
* Republican Jon McCain - $7,785
* Democrat Joe Biden - $2,300
* Republican Ron Paul - $1,662
* Republican Tom Tancredo - $1,140
* Republican Duncan Hunter - $500
* Republican Jim Gilmore - $500 (dropped out this weekend)

The Mountain State has yet to give to:

* Republicans Chris Cox, Mike Huckabee and Tommy Thompson.
* Democrats Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

17 July 2007

The Rising Cost of, er, Education

Sending the largest delegation to the recent Council of State Government's meeting at a Puerto Rico resort will cost West Virginia taxpayers at least $44,518, the Charleston Daily Mail reports today.

It appears that $16,711 of the total is from flying Gov. Joe Manchin, Chief of Staff Larry Puccio, their wives and two state troopers to and from the conference on a state airplane.

More than half of the 26 legislators who attended have also turned in expense reports, which range between $1,320.20 and $2,075.37, the article said.

The Consumers' Advocate

Byron Harris will be only the second public advocate for the state Public Service Commission since the job was added to the utility-regulating agency in 1981.

The Charleston Gazette talks to Harris about his new post, and asks him about filling the sizable shoes of retiring advocate Billy Jack Greg.

Tumult Continues Over DEP Stream List

The Charleston Gazette covered a Monday public hearing for the Manchin administration's proposed list of streams protected under "Virginia’s federally required stream anti-degradation policy."

"Under orders from Manchin, DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer last month cut the number of streams on the agency’s preferred list from more than 300 to 157," the Gazette reports. "Streams on the list are clean, and the anti-degradation policy aims to keep them that way."

A majority of the speakers hailed from state Trout Unlimited chapters, environmental groups and the state Council of Churches, the paper found, "all lined up against the governor’s move to reduce the number of protected streams."

16 July 2007

W.Va.'s GOP and 2008

In the wake of the West Virginia Republican Party's annual summer conference, The Associated Press looks at some of the challenges facing the Mountain State's GOP as it readies for the 2008 election cycle.

After a rough 2006, the Republicans are losing their only statewide executive branch officeholder, face a popular incumbent Democratic governor, and are searching for a challenger to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. Then there's the six-figure debt, and a brewing anti-GOP storm on the national front, according to political analysts.

W.Va.'s Most Expensive Community College

When counted by per-student costs, Hardy County's Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College is the state's priciest, according to The Charleston Gazette.

Last year, the Moorefield campus "employed one full-time faculty member and graduated just 19 students." the Gazette reports. "Taxpayers paid $8,394 per student at Eastern that year, the highest rate of the 10 community and technical colleges in the state."


The Associated Press's Tom Breen provides some context to last week's horrific drunken driving crash that killed five people and injured seven.

For "people with drunken driving convictions — even those with suspended licenses — getting behind the wheel is not an isolated phenomenon," Breen reports. "Many states have 'loopholes' in their laws that allow people convicted of drunken driving to regain their licenses fairly quickly."

They Voted For You: Immigration

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, led the vote to recommit a housing-related bill to the House Committee on Financial Services, which amended the bill to require personal identification from all adults before they can receive rental housing assistance under section 8(o) of the United States Housing Act of 1937.

The motion to recommit passed 233-186. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-1st, and Nick Rahall, D-3rd, voted against the motion.

Capito, Rahall and Mollohan all voted for passage of the bill, which aims to "reform the housing choice voucher program under section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937. It passed 333-83.

The Charleston Gazette has an article on the vote.