Dark money and bullying tactics at the state Capitol

West Virginia Record
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Their View

By Stephen New


CHARLESTON – For 25 years now, West Virginia and her citizens have been victimized by a ruthless, unrelenting attack. 

Why? Because corporate billionaires want to increase their profits at the expense of our state's reputation, our bank accounts and our constitutional rights.

Even worse? They don't have the guts to admit they're behind the attack.  Instead, they hide in the shadows and pump millions into dark money campaigns fronted by their henchmen and puppet politicians.

This effort has been led by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA). Both claim to be "grassroots" organizations. They're not. Established in 1986, ATRA's "members are largely Fortune 500 companies with direct financial stake in restricting lawsuits” including “the tobacco, insurance, chemical, auto and pharmaceutical industries” (Center for Justice and Democracy). ATRA employee Neal Cohen led the effort to establish state CALAs. The Washington, D.C., PR firm APCO Worldwide was paid millions to create CALAs to "give the appearance of a groundswell of public desire to alter the legal system." Funding for CALAs comes from the same big corporate special interests (Center for Justice and Democracy).  

West Virginia CALA started operating in 1994. From Day 1, its leaders have refused to tell state residents who is behind the organization. CALA has stood right there with ATRA, issuing statements in support of the other's fake studies, legislative efforts and PR stunts.

If there was any doubt how incestuous it is, you need to look no further than political operative Greg Thomas. Thomas, who gained notoriety for heading Don Blankenship's dark money And for the Sake of the Kids campaign, serves as the spokesperson for one and the lobbyist for the other. As a political consultant, Thomas has been front and center as ATRA, CALA and their top-secret funders have funneled millions in dark money into West Virginia elections to get the politicians who support their agenda elected.

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