Corruptinelli rides again. Ken Cuccinelli’s actions in favor of crony capitalists and campaign contributors are raising eyebrows again. In the last episode of “As the Crony Turns” our Attorney General and candidate for governor developed selective amnesia when it came to fulfilling the legal requirement of reporting his investment in Star Scientific as well as gifts from Star Scientific’s CEO. After recovering his memory he decided that perhaps his office shouldn’t lead the state’s case against Star Scientific. In this installment of the regularly scheduled program Mr. Cuccinelli’s Office of the Attorney General is helping out of state energy concerns fight a legal battle against Virginia citizens. Oh, did I mention – one of the out-of-state energy companies has contributed over $100,000 to Mr. Cuccinelli’s campaigns.
Cronyism – the Virginia way. The issue at hand is instructive in understanding how crony capitalism works in Virginia. The Virginia Gas and Oil Board is yet another un-elected body appointed by the governor. As the board’s website states, ” The Board hears appeals from persons who believe they have been aggrieved by a decision/order under the Virginia Gas and Oil Act related to the promulgation and enforcement of rules, regulations, and orders necessary to ensure the safe and efficient development and production of gas and oil resources located in Virginia.” Since the board is a governmental body, the state’s Office of the Attorney General provides legal advice to the board.
One of the board’s more important functions is adjudicating disputes between energy exploration companies and the people who own the land with the gas and oil rights. The Virginia Oil and Gas Board has a long and inept history of botching the claims of individuals against energy companies. In fact, Daniel Gilbert of the Bristol Herald Courier won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for his eight- part article on the matter. He calculated that the everyday people who own the land with the oil and gas are owed $24M.
Here comes ‘da judge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent is not like Ken Cuccinelli. Unlike Cuccinelli she was born in Virginia. Unlike Cuccinelli she was educated in the Virginia public school system. Unlike Cuccinelli she knows the history of energy exploration in Southwest Virginia. Her grandfather died in a coal mining accident and her father lost an arm in another mine accident. Unlike Cuccinelli she doesn’t think the Virginia Oil and Gas Board or the AG’s office should help out-of-state companies deny compensation to Virginia landowners. Here’s what she had to say about the actions of the Office of the Attorney General, “Shockingly, these emails show that the Board, or at least Pigeon, has been actively involved in assisting EQT and CNX with the defense of these cases, including offering advice on and providing information for use on the Motions before the court.”
Follow the money. One of the two companies involved in this legal wrangling is Consol Energy (which trades as CNX). Consol has donated over $111,000 to Cuccinelli for Governor over the last 12 months.
Dance of the sugar plum apologists. No doubt the usual Richmond apologists will say that no scandal has been committed since no scandal has been chiseled into stone regarding this matter. Therefore, the fact that a federal judge is railing against the state’s sitting Attorney General for his office’s advocacy of a company which donates heavily to his campaign is irrelevant. That explanation may work for the Richmond elite. However, those of us Virginians living outside the friendly confines of Richmond see something else – a systematically corrupt state government which trades in an almost endless array of gifts, unlimited campaign contributions and crony capitalism.