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WVU already has lobbyists in D.C.

THE decision by officials at West Virginia University to spend as much as half-million dollars to hire people to lobby the Legislature and Congress should not sit well with the public.

No tax-supported entity should be allowed to spend money to lobby for more tax dollars.

If that is not illegal, it should be.

WVU will spend $160,000 a year to hire Richard V. French, a former member of the staff of Rep. Nick Joe Rahall, D-W.Va., and a former director of planning at the U.S. Department of Labor to represent the university in Washington.

Mary Bowman is paid $89,000 a year to lobby for WVU in Washington. Her assistant costs $30,000.

The university will pay Paul Hardesty and John Cavacini $10,000 each for three months to lobby for WVU Research Corp. the university's nonprofit.

WVU could spend $480,000 a year on lobbyists.

"It is essential for WVU to have a strong presence in Washington to advance its national agenda and interests," said WVU chief of staff Jay Cole. "From informing policymaking to competing for grants, WVU has a great deal to offer at the national level."

But the university already has a strong presence in Washington - Sens. Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller and Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, David McKinley and Nick Joe Rahall.

WVU spokesman John Bolt argued that West Virginia's delegation needs help to represent it.

"It's not appropriate for us to expect the delegation to do that," he said. "They've got other things to worry about as well."

Few people in Washington were busier than the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. But when WVU tried this in 1989, Byrd dismissed the lobbyist and placed a phone call.

"I then began to express to the university people my indignation and anger," Byrd said at the time. "I asked them: 'Why do you waste your money on a lobbyist when I'm being paid to be your senator?' "

Byrd's phone call should have been the end of it.

With the national debt topping $16 trillion, certain realizations are in order.

It does not improve WVU's image with the public that supports it when it uses money to hire lobbyists to get more.


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