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West Virginia editorial roundup

November 5, 2013
Associated Press

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Nov. 4

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W. Va., on spending fiascoes in state:

Once the cost of waste and outright wrongdoing in West Virginia's massive program to improve Internet access is added up, it will not be surprising if the total is in eight figures.

State officials admit $7.9 million was wasted in purchasing unnecessarily expensive network routers. Some analysts say the waste actually was twice that. And millions more may have been spent improperly when state bidding procedures were ignored in a communications tower project.

It all was part of a program to spend $126.3 million in federal "stimulus" money given to the state. Misuse of much of that money has received national attention.

Earlier this month, state legislators were told they should stiffen purchasing rules to avoid similar waste in the future. Lawmakers should accept every recommendation along that line from the Legislative Auditor's Office — and more.

In addition, investigations of misspending should continue. Those who broke state rules should be fired — and/or prosecuted, if crimes occurred.

Too much money was wasted for state officials merely to try to do better in the future.



Nov. 4

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W. Va., on one chain's decision to stop selling a drug used in making meth:

A decision by Rite Aid pharmacies in West Virginia to stop selling cold medications that have only pseudoephedrine as their active ingredient has received mixed reviews.

But in the short term, it's at least a small step forward in efforts to reduce the illegal production of methamphetamine, which is highly addictive to its users and poses serious hazards to anyone else in the vicinity of meth-making labs.

The decision by Rite Aid applies to a few products that are sought out by people because they contain only pseudoephedrine and thus are easier to use in making potent methamphetamine. Rite Aid stores will continue to sell medications that contain both pseudoephedrine and other active ingredients such as antihistamines and pain relievers, which typically aren't in such high demand for illegal meth production.

Rite Aid's decision came after a recent report by The Charleston Gazette showing that some of its stores were among the state's top sellers of products that contain pseudoephedrine. A Rite Aid spokeswoman said the company was committed to doing its part to combat methamphetamine production.

Jason Grellner, vice president of the National Narcotics Officers Association, told The Gazette that Rite Aid should be commended. ...

Last year, West Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that allowed the state's participation in a tracking system called NPLEx, which required all pharmacies in the state to report sales of pseudoephedrine products. ...

If other pharmacy chains make the same move as Rite Aid, perhaps the prevalence of illegal meth labs would drop significantly. But short of such a widespread buy-in by the those selling pseudoephedrine products, mandating prescription-only sales may be the only way to crimp methamphetamine production. The two other states that require prescriptions have seen sharp declines in meth-lab seizures. That's the kind of results that West Virginia must pursue.



Oct. 31

Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette on vast campaign cash poisons politics:

Four West Virginia coal industry millionaires evidently exceeded federal limits for political donations — nearly all given to Republicans — reporter David Gutman revealed.

But those federal limits are a joke, easily evaded via "soft money" and "dark money" and "super PACs" and phony "social welfare" groups and other schemes that let the rich funnel vast sums to the GOP. Some political fronts aren't allowed to campaign directly for candidates, but they can buy slanted TV spots smearing their opponents.

For example, it's estimated that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson poured as much as $150 million into last year's attempt to defeat President Barack Obama. He's on record as giving $20.5 million to a super-PAC that backed Newt Gingrich — and when Gingrich sank to the failure he deserved, Adelson poured $30 million more to a super-PAC for Mitt Romney, who likewise sank to failure. Federal donation limits didn't impede Adelson. ...

Currently, another pending case, McCutcheon v. FEC, may destroy the few restraints on political cash that remain. The Lexington Herald-Leader said this case may lead to a "nightmare plutocracy" of "selling government to the highest bidders." It added:

"Defenders of democracy back to Theodore Roosevelt have fought to curb the poisoning of our political system by money infusions from wealthy individuals and corporations. But lately they've been losing."

In the pending 2014 West Virginia race for U.S. Senate, Republican Shelley Moore Capito already has $3.2 million in campaign funds, while Democratic challenger Natalie Tennant has only $153,000 — a 20-to-1 lopsided advantage. When the avalanche of TV ads begins, brace yourself for 20 smears on one side for each one on the other.

If people simply ignored the television barrage and voted according to their personal beliefs, the problem of "poisoning" by the rich would fade.




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