by Ron Gregory
Charleston — Unusual circumstances require unusual responses.
At least that appeared to be the theme today as Attorney General Patrick Morrisey held a rare Sunday press conference in downtown Charleston.
The event, originally scheduled for the Byrd courthouse was shifted to Morrisey headquarters in the Woolworth Building on Capitol Street. Morrisey and a handful of supporters welcomed the few press representatives who attended the 1 p.m. event, moved because of heavy rain in the city.
Morrisey took the podium to announce that he is reporting former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to his federal probation officer. The reason, Morrisey said, is that Blankenship has not filed a personal financial disclosure form in his race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Morrisey is also seeking the nomination, along with Third District Representative Evan Jenkins.
The candidates are vying for the seat now held by Democrat Joe Manchin. Morrisey, Jenkins and Blankenship made the polling numbers to participate in a Fox News debate last week. Three other GOP candidates polled lesser numbers: Bo Copley, Jack Newbrough and Tom Willis.
The campaign has been hard fought with Jenkins and Morrisey attacking each other nearly every day. Commercials have also been vicious but Blankenship had escaped major criticism until now. Generally, the candidates have sought to align themselves with President Donald Trump, who is enormously popular in the state. Many political pros felt last week’s debate benefitted Blankenship because of Jenkins and Morrisey’s obvious feud. Blankenship smiled most of the time during the debate and often delivered one-liners after a verbal brawl by Morrisey and Jenkins.
Little had been said about the misdemeanor indictment and one-year jail time Blankenship spent for his role in a 2010 coal mine explosion that cost 29 miners their lives.
But that conviction and its subsequent probation are what Morrisey targeted Sunday. The AG said, since Blankenship is still on probation, he had directed his campaign staff to report the fact that Blankenship has not filed a required personal financial with the federal election commission. Morrisey even suggested that Blankenship’s failure to file the election form might be a parole violation.
“The Ethics in Government Act mandates disclosure of this information not because we are curious,” Morrisey said today, “but instead because it is the only way to tell if a candidate is looking out for our interests, or for his own financial interests.”
Morrisey continued, “there are six candidates in this race. Five of us obey the law. Don Blankenship is not above the law.”
The AG went on to demand that Blankenship “release this information today.”
In raising the possibility that Blankenship’s failure to file the financial might be a parole violation, Morrisey added, “West Virginia Republicans don’t need a candidate who may not be able to campaign against Joe Manchin.”
The federal government spent years investigating the tragic mine explosion near Whitesville. Federal prosecutors attempted to convict the ex-CEO on felony charges but were unsuccessful. Most families of those who perished in the explosion blame Blankenship for the deaths of their relatives. Blankenship, a multi millionaire, has consistently blamed federal mine safety officials for causing the blast.
Morrisey concluded his remarks with typical campaign commentary, saying he is the only “true conservative” in the race and the only one who can beat the incumbent in November.
A spokesman for Blankenship described Morrisey’s campaign as “desperate” and added the latest accusations against the ex-CEO are “too little, too late