Two prominent lobbyists - Paul Hardesty and John Cavacini - registered earlier this month to lobby for WVU Research Corp., the university's nonprofit affiliate. They are each making $10,000 for three months of work with contract renewals possible.
WVU may soon be paying, all told, nearly a half million dollars a year on Charleston and D.C. lobbying efforts.
House Finance Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, said he understood why WVU might need new lobbyists in Charleston.
"I think they felt they had some issues in last year's Legislature that they didn't do very well at," White said.
White said the university wanted to be designated the Marcellus shale research center for the state - but "they didn't do very well on that one," White said.
WVU also hopes to build a Big 12-suitable baseball stadium using a tax-increment financing district. That effort came to an abrupt halt in February when Commerce Department officials told lawmakers they hadn't received any of the necessary documents needed to proceed. The project is now proceeding but will still need legislative approval.
Kessler said tax deal for the stadium came up in passing during his discussions with the university's lobbying team. The deal is meant to benefit the university but the tax deal itself goes to a private land developed. Lofstead said WVU's lobbyists are "certainly aware of the project and its importance to the economic development of this part of the state, but they are not representing WVU on this issue." In a second telephone interview late last week, Kessler said he - not the lobbying team - brought up the tax deal.
Cavacini and Hardesty did not respond to requests for comment.
Kessler said they and the university's general counsel, William Hutchens, visited him during legislative interims, which were the second week of September.
Later that evening, Cavacini and Hutchens went to dinner with other people, including Kessler; Prezioso; Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Cabell; Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam; and Larry Puccio, the Democratic Party chairman and a lobbyist.
Prezioso said Puccio invited him to the event. The two are old friends from Marion County. Puccio said there wasn't any WVU business spoken about around him.