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WVU hires pair of lobbyists

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia University recently hired two lobbyists to be its eyes, ears and voice in Charleston.

The university has previously employed in-house lobbyists, but the decision to hire two contract lobbyists represents a recent shift in how WVU approaches relations with state government.

The two prominent lobbyists - Paul Hardesty and John Cavacini - registered in recent days to lobby for WVU Research Corp., the university's nonprofit affiliate. The corporation is funded using federal, state and private money.

Hardesty and Cavacini are both well known around the state Capitol.

Hardesty has more than two-dozen clients, including Alpha Natural Resources, Appalachian Electric Power, The Greenbrier and Morgantown real estate mogul Parry Petroplus.

Cavacini represents Anheuser-Busch and the state's racetracks and casinos.

Each is working on an initial three-month, $10,000 contract, WVU general counsel Bill Hutchens said.

While the contract is with the WVU Research Corp., Cavacini and Hardesty are expected to represent the university as a whole.

It's not yet clear what WVU wants from Charleston.

"We're critical to the state," Hutchens said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "We simply have to continue having communications on a constant basis with state government."

Cavacini and Hardesty are to "monitor, consult and report on matters of interest to WVU," Hutchens said.

The decision to contract with lobbyists to handle affairs in Charleston represents a dual shift for WVU.

The university previously had in-house lobbyists in Charleston but hired contract lobbyists to work for it in Washington, D.C.

Now, WVU has Cavacini and Hardesty on contract in Charleston but an in-house lobbyist, Mary Bowman, representing the university on Capitol Hill.

WVU previously employed an in-house staffer, David Miller, to handle government relations.

"Dave Miller was doing a good job at that as a full-time WVU employee, but last summer, as you recall, he retired from employment at WVU," Hutchens said.

That left Hutchens - a former lawyer at Jackson Kelly's Morgantown office - in charge of government relations. It was up to him to handle WVU's relationships with state agencies and the Legislature last fall and last winter.

"WVU is sitting at the opposite end of the state almost from Charleston," he said.

Cavacini and Hardesty's first contracts run through November.

It's not unheard of for public entities to have contract lobbyists. Marshall University and other state colleges and universities have Washington lobbyists, according to federal reports. Marshall has previously relied on in-house staff to handle legislative affairs, however.

Likewise, groups that represent the state's counties and cities have lobbyists who represent their interests.

Bowman, the WVU lobbyist for Washington, has had at least $120,000 in expenses so far this year, according to reports filed with the U.S. House.

Hardesty said his $10,000-per-quarter consideration was all he planned to charge WVU under his current contract.

When lobbyists entertain clients, they can spend hundreds of dollars at a time. Hardesty said his $10,000 contract is a flat fee.

"Every client I've had, I want to let them know what their exposure is up front," Hardesty said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Hardesty said he did not think there would be conflicts between his existing clients and WVU when he lobbies.

He said getting the job was an honor.

"I'm honored to represent the flagship university of this state," Hardesty said.

Cavacini did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

Contact writer Ry Rivard at ry.rivard@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryrivard.

 


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