CHARLESTON, W.Va. - To hear incumbent Attorney General Darrell McGraw tell it, his Republican opponent is a front man for the companies McGraw's office prides itself for suing.
To challenger Patrick Morrisey, Democrat McGraw is running campaigns using money that belongs to taxpayers.
"What we have here today is a front man for an outfit that is supported by all the people that we resist who want to kill consumer protection in West Virginia," McGraw said.
McGraw said his office has brought in more than $2 billion from consumer protection actions since he was first elected in 1992.
Morrisey said McGraw has used too much of that money for his own devices, namely advertisements that aid McGraw's re-election efforts.
Morrisey said a portion of McGraw's settlement money is "always reserved for the private piggybank of the office of the attorney general."
"I think that's wrong, and I don't think it's coincidental when election-year spending may ultimately exceed non-election-year spending in the office of attorney general by 10 times the amount," Morrisey said. "That's not right."
Morrisey also said he would put an end to "trinkets" bearing the attorney general's name.
McGraw said his lawsuits against companies have put him at odds with businesses that are backing a "lobbyist enterprise," including the Institute for Legal Reform, an industry-backed group that Morrisey cited during the interview.
"What this lobbyist enterprise wants to do is to kill consumer protection in West Virginia - to kill consumer protection," McGraw said. "We have a good consumer protection law, and these people want to kill it."
McGraw also alluded to Morrisey's legal experience in West Virginia.
Morrisey, a former congressional staffer turned D.C. lobbyist who lives in the Eastern Panhandle, was not licensed to practice law in West Virginia until several days before he filed to run for attorney general this year. In 2000, he unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in New Jersey.
"The problem we've got is this man knows nothing about West Virginia law or how West Virginia law operates," McGraw said.
Morrisey said he's practiced law for two decades and has experience with important state and federal issues like Medicaid.
McGraw's office plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars this year advertising its services to consumers and much, if not all, of that advertising will bear McGraw's name. A large portion of the money will come from a national mortgage settlement that attorneys general from across the country entered into earlier this year.