08 August 2008

Barth Picks Up Support of EMILY's List

Anne Barth has gained a fundraising ally in her challenge of 2nd District Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

The Hill reports that Barth is among six Democratic women that EMILY's List is adding to their roster of congressional candidate worthy of support this year.

EMILY's List describes itself as "dedicated to building a progressive America by electing pro-choice Democratic women to office."

Capito has long received the support from the group's Republican counterpart. The WISH List -- which calls itself "America's largest fundraising network for pro-choice Republican women candidates" -- has been among the largest single sources of campaign funds for Capito during past elections.

Ex-Gov. Wise on Lou Dobbs

Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN on Thursday featured former West Virginia congressman and Gov. Bob Wise, who talked about the nation's schools as president of the Alliance for Excellent Education.

CNN has video here, and the show has also posted a transcript (the segment is in the bottom fifth). Wise also won praise from co-host Kitty Pilgrim for his new book, Raising the Grade. "It's excellent," she said.

06 August 2008

McCain in West Virginia

John McCain's latest West Virginia appearance, his third this year, was both like the previous visit (brief) and the first (closed to the public and with limited media access).

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee spent about 23 minutes at the practice field for Marshall University's football program. He watched the drills, and chatted with coaches and the occasional player out of earshot from the press entourage. He also gave the entire team a seven-minute pep talk that drew both from his ordeal as a POW in Vietnam and Marshall's devastating 1970 plane crash.

The Associated Press has coverage, as does the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, MetroNews (with audio and sidebars featuring players and Obama supporters), WSAZ-TV (with video) and WCHS-TV. Several of these also offer photos from the visit.

05 August 2008

McCain Coming to West Virginia

It will be another brief, limited-access appearance by the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and Arizona senator.

John McCain is slated to meet with Marshall University's football team during its Wednesday morning practice before he departs for Ohio via bus.

The Associated Press reports that "the stop will be closed to the public, and there will be only limited media coverage."

Others with the announcement include the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, The Charleston Gazette, the Charleston Daily Mail and MetroNews.

State Democrats were quick with a smack in advance of the visit. “Why is Senator McCain in West Virginia talking football behind closed doors when he should be here talking about gas prices,” Party Chairman Nick Casey said in a release. “With some of the longest commuting times in the nation, West Virginian’s are hurting more from the high cost of fuel than residents of almost any other state.”

Politico Details Rahall-Bush Meeting

When U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-3rd, traveled with President Bush to West Virginia last week, he was carrying out the House Democrats' strategy in the ongoing energy debate, Politico reports.

Their goal is to hold off on a comprehensive energy bill until 2009, under a new president and possibly with an increased majority in both chambers of Congress, the article said.

As for Rahall's role:

Rahall spent more than an hour last week talking to the president about energy. Bush spent the entire flight aboard Air Force One, and much of a subsequent limousine ride, grilling the West Virginia Democrat about legislative solutions to the high price of gasoline, Rahall said last week.
Rahall told Politico that the president does not expect Congress to act on the issue this year. “He’s realistic about it,” Rahall is quoted as saying.

As part of this game plan, Politico reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "always intended to take heat on gas prices while tacitly encouraging more vulnerable Democrats to publicly disagree with her and show their independence."

Justice Albright Hospitalized

State Supreme Court Justice Joe Albright remains in a Pittsburgh hospital following surgery on his esophagus, The Associated Press reports.

MetroNews broke the news earlier in the day.

Capito Partakes in House GOP Floor Protest

The Hill newspaper included U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-2nd, among the 20 or so GOP members who after the House recessed on Friday "stayed behind to continue to speak about energy issues."

The protesters "gave speeches on the empty floor to protest that Congress went into recess and to raise awareness of what they say is an unwillingness by Democrats to take up legislation to deal with the nation’s energy crisis," the newspaper said. "Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), chalked the display up to politics."

Capito also appears to be the only member of the House energy "working group" who joined Friday's demonstration, according The Hill's roster of its participants and partial listings of the working group's membership in that paper and Roll Call.

The bipartisan group had sought to work quietly on energy legislation, and to avoid what its co-founder called "a rhetorical death spiral" surrounding the issue. It proposed a "National Conservation, Environment and Energy Independence Act" last week.

ABA, Other Groups Weigh in on Caperton's U.S. Supreme Court Appeal

A bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to review a West Virginia ruling wiping out a $76.3 million judgment has attracted the attention of the American Bar Association and other groups.

As The Associated Press reports, the leading U.S. lawyers' association and at least four other organizations filed "friend of the court briefs" in the appeal by Harman Mining Co. and its president of the state Supreme Court's April decision in favor of Massey Energy Co.

"The groups fault Justice Brent Benjamin for remaining on the case after Don Blankenship, Massey's president, chairman and chief executive officer, spent more than $3 million to help him win his seat," the AP article said.

Other filing briefs include the Brennan Center for Justice, part of New York University's College of Law. The Center has devoted a page on its Web site to the case, and offers links to the appeal and to each of the briefs filed Monday.

The site also notes that Harman and Hugh Caperton, its president, have enlisted former Bush administration U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson in its appeal.

"The improper appearance created by money in judicial elections is one of the most important issues facing our judicial system today," Olson is quoted as saying on the Brennan site. "A line needs to be drawn somewhere to prevent a judge from hearing cases involving a person who has made massive campaign contributions to benefit the judge. We certainly believe that, in this case, acting Chief Justice Benjamin crossed that line."

Benjamin recently addressed calls for his recusal, in a 57-page concurring opinion issued nearly four months after the state court's 3-2 reversal of the Harman verdict.

From the AP story:

"It has long been recognized that there is 'a presumption of honesty and integrity in those serving as adjudicators,'" Benjamin wrote, quoting from past court decisions. "Due process therefore requires recusal only in those rare cases wherein a judge or justice has a 'direct, personal, substantial (or) pecuniary interest' in the outcome of the case."
The Charleston Gazette also has a story, while The Chicago Tribune and the National Law Journal each invoke the West Virginia situation in articles exploring judicial recusals.

Manchin Sticking with TrAIL Tax Proposal

Following up on the Public Service Commission's approval of the project, Gov. Joe Manchin has proposed legislation to tax the $1.3 billion multistate power line plotted to cross north central West Virginia.

The Associated Press has details, as does MetroNews, The Charleston Gazette, The Journal of Martinsburg and The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown (Md.). The latter has video as well.

04 August 2008

WSJ Profiles W.Va. Teacher Pension Switch

West Virginia's reversal of a national trend, by allowing public educators to migrate from a 401(k)-style retirement plan to one offering a defined benefit, has caught the attention of The Wall Street Journal.

Chronicling what led to legislators allowing the pension switch, the newspaper reports that "what happened in West Virginia is a window into exactly how things can fall apart for workers, and it serves as a wake-up call for figuring out how to avoid having plans go as badly off track as this one did."

"Many workers with retirement accounts have built nest eggs far bigger than they ever imagined possible," the article continues. "But unknowledgeable ones often are far short of comfortable retirements -- and they don't have the option the West Virginia teachers did of appealing to state legislators to get them out of their investing mistakes."

The Associated Press earlier scrutinized the investment habits and choices that preceded the mass exodus, which has prompted a lawsuit on behalf of disgruntled enrollees.

TrAIL Project Clears PSC Hurdle

The Public Service Commission has approved Allegheny Energy's plan to build a $1.3 billion, high voltage power line across north central West Virginia.

The Associated Press and MetroNews among those with coverage of the PSC decision. The Charleston Gazette reports that "
the state Sierra Club vowed to appeal the PSC decision to the state Supreme Court."

Update: Public Broadcasting also reports on the threatened lawsuit. With audio.

W.Va. Candidates Mostly Dodge Project Vote Smart

The Associated Press reports on the less-than-impressive response rate by West Virginia candidates to the "Political Courage Test" regularly offered by the non-partisan Project Vote Smart.

The survey asks presidential, congressional and state-level (gubernatorial and legislative) hopefuls to state their positions on a wide array of relevant issues.

The group
also offers a free "Voter's Self Defense Manual" with this year's edition "loaded with samples of elected officials' voting records, campaign finance information, interest group ratings and contact information."

CQ Upgrades W.Va.-2nd

Congressional Quarterly believes West Virginia's 2nd House District "Leans Republican" in the race between GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic challenger Anne Barth, a more competitive rating than the previously bestowed "Republican Favored."

CQ explains its rationale here (update: and here), while also noting that the Mountain State is "probably headed to John McCain this time."

The rating change follows that of the Cook Political Report last month.