The Republican Attorneys General Association has now spent nearly $5 million on behalf of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to help him in his race against Democratic challenger Doug Reynolds.
Late last week, RAGA, a national group run by Scott Will, Morrisey’s former campaign manager, threw down another $943,360 in attack ads against Reynolds, a millionaire businessman from Huntington who has contributed nearly $2 million of his own money, as of September.
The third-party spending for Morrisey is being made under the name Mountaineers are Always Free PAC, a group that was specifically set up by RAGA to help get West Virginia’s incumbent attorney general re-elected.
So far, the group has spent $4.9 million on attack ads against Reynolds. While it is difficult to tell exactly where RAGA’s money is coming from, a federal tax report shows that some of the group’s biggest donors include pharmaceutical companies, coal operations and some of the best-known Republican donors, like Charles and David Koch.
In the past month, the race for West Virginia’s top attorney has become one of the state’s most expensive political fights. The two candidates and RAGA have spent millions on attack ads that have been broadcast on television sets across the state.
Last week, the two candidates met for a disorganized debate on the steps of the West Virginia Capitol, where they fought about those attack ads and criticized one another. The main topics of that debate included challenging federal air pollution regulations, the state’s drug epidemic and why Morrisey’s wife once owned a house in Virginia.
During and after the unruly debate, the candidates fought over their campaign financing. Morrisey criticized Reynolds for inheriting his wealth and using it in the political campaign. Reynolds questioned why corporate-funded RAGA was willing to spend millions of dollars on Morrisey’s re-election.
Morrisey has tried to paint Reynolds as an ally of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, because Reynolds gave money to her campaign in 2007. He also has called out Reynolds for not practicing law in recent years.
Reynolds, in turn, has criticized Morrisey for his connections to the pharmaceutical drug industry, which has contributed to the state’s opioid addiction problems and the country’s highest overdose rate.
Morrisey and his wife have worked as lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies, including drug wholesalers that were sued by Morrisey’s predecessor, then-Democratic Attorney General Darrell McGraw. Morrisey’s office has settled numerous cases with many of those wholesalers in recent months.
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