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Statehouse Beat: former Mingo senator gets $30K parting gift

It had to be shock for Truman Chafin last November when he lost the state Senate seat he had held for 30 consecutive years to used car dealer Mark Maynard, a Republican who essentially ran an unfunded campaign.

However, the Mingo County Democrat got a nice parting gift for his legislative service, cashing in four years’ worth of legislative per-diem expenses for a cool $34,060.

Chafin turned in 66 days for 2011, 68 days for 2012, 63 days for 2013, and 63 days for 2014. At $131 a day, those 260 days added up to a nice little check (or two checks, actually, one for $17,554 and one for $16,506).

Meanwhile, Chafin’s successor, Sen. Maynard, received a total of $8,867 for the 2015 session for per-diem payments and mileage reimbursement.

Overall this session, legislators received a total of $1.05 million in per-diem payments, mileage, and a limited amount of miscellaneous expenses (primary Turnpike tolls).

That included $785,571 paid to delegates, and $268,959 to senators.

That amount might have been higher, but all 11 delegates and four senators representing Kanawha County stood with tradition and did not put in for expenses.

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Quick follow-up: You may recall that last fall, the FCC rescinded an ownership transfer of WCLG AM/FM in Morgantown to AJG Corp after two complaints were filed alleging “very close connections and operational control” between AJG, operated as a trust for the descendants of John and David Raese, and West Virginia Radio Corp., the radio mini-empire which the Raeses own and operate as co-directors.

One of the complaints, by IMG College senior vice president Joe Potter, contended that the $1.8 million offer was a preemptive strike to block the current WCLG ownership from finalizing a deal that would have put IMG’s West Virginia University sports broadcasts on the powerful Morgantown stations.

While the session was going on, the FCC issued its order on the WCLG transfer.

Hearing examiners essentially dismissed most of the allegations made in the two complaints, both of which provided Statehouse Beat columns as supporting evidence.

The FCC’s order states: “We will not consider the newspaper articles referred to by the objectors because the Commission has found information in newspaper articles to be the equivalent of heresay, and cannot act as a substitute for affidavits based on personal knowledge that are required to substantiate serious allegations.”

That was somewhat hurtful. However, the FCC did find validity to questions raised as to whether ties between WVRC and AJG violated commission’s regulations limiting how many stations in a market any one entity can own.

Using information from the BIA Kelsey Media database, the FCC concluded things are a little too familial between WVRC and AJG.

The FCC order sets several conditions that must be met before the commission will approve the sale of WCLG, including:

n Sworn statements verifying that no officers, management or staff of AJG stations will have any communication, direct or indirect, with the Raese brothers, or with any officers, management or staff of any WVRC stations.

n Verification that WVRC stations have ceased sharing managerial staff with AJG stations.

n Termination of any and all joint advertising sales agreements between WVRC and AJG stations.

AJG’s appeal of the order was filed last month by attorneys with the Arlington, Virginia, law firm of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth (which, ironically, is the same firm that represents WVRC in FCC matters), who argued the conditions set will adversely affect AJG.

Among the concerns is that prohibition on communications between management and staff of WVRC and AJG stations will be “unnecessarily burdensome.”

“Such a condition would prohibit such ordinary functions as a WVRC employee passing to a AJG employee a copy of an advertiser’s commercial produced at a WVRC station, or pooling news coverage of a local event or coordinating a response to an emergency.”

I’m no lawyer or media expert, but that sounds like an awful lot of cooperation between what are supposed to be competing radio corporations…As they say in broadcast media, stay tuned.

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Finally, I was a bit perplexed by emails and calls asking about the “Good for Good” campaign, promoting Charleston poet, entrepreneur and social media strategist Crystal Good as “social media senator” for the state. (Her victory party was Thursday evening.)

While I’m equally put off by performance art and by social media, Good’s mission statement seems to be sound: That, as the low turnout in the last election showed, there is a majority of West Virginians who care about the state, but don’t believe they can make a difference through the political process.

Good’s platform is to create a digital commons where people can express their ideas and positions on issues facing the state, ideas she can then take to decision makers in Charleston and Washington. Should be an interesting endeavor.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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