In my years covering state government, one of the most heartwarming aspects is when someone of modest means gets elected to the Legislature, and in a few short years, becomes a successful, wealthy businessperson.
The latest case in point is Delegate Zack Maynard, R-Lincoln.
When Maynard, who has a degree in business management from the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, first was elected to the Legislature in 2016, he listed his profession as “substitute teacher in Lincoln County.”
After winning reelection in 2018, he and three partners in June 2019 formed West Virginia Laboratories LLC, and at some point set up shop in space in one of the old Carbide Tech Center buildings in South Charleston.
Then, last November, West Virginia Laboratories inked a no-bid contract with the state Bureau of Public Health to provide COVID-19 test kits.
The contract documentation includes a Nov. 13 letter from Public Health general counsel Britt Ludwig saying the contract is good to go even though “not all the documentation is present as is required under BPH OLS (Office of Laboratory Services) exempt purchasing policy.”
According to purchase orders on file at the state auditor’s office, on Nov. 30, the state paid West Virginia Laboratories $2 million and on Dec. 22 made two payments of $4 million and $2 million. (Merry Christmas.)
Since then, the state has paid an additional total of $901,295 to Maynard’s company.
Gotta hand it to Maynard’s startup company for landing a major state contract competing with larger, more established medical testing companies in the region. Way to hustle.
Earning $8.9 million in just seven months must be a real testament to Maynard’s business acumen, particularly coming at the tail-end of the need for COVID-19 testing.
Interestingly, on his 2021 financial disclosure to the Ethics Commission, Maynard lists West Virginia Laboratories as a business name and as a for-profit business and discloses the state contract.
However, he does not list it as a source of income over $1,000, listing his only employment as being a member of the House of Delegates, and he does not list it as a business or property interest valued at $10,000 or more.
In the section listing categories of employment providing 20% or more of gross income, Maynard checked only the “state government” box.
I reached out to Maynard for comment, but he did not respond.
From part-time substitute teacher to unemployed legislator to entrepreneur of a multi-million-dollar business operation in five years, quite an accomplishment, a regular Horatio Alger story. Well played, Delegate Maynard, well played.
“I am not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat.” — Will Rogers.
That state Democrats are feuding with each other at a time when they should be trying to rebuild from the grassroots up after their shambolic 2020 election disaster tells you all you need to know about the state Democratic Party.
Without getting into particulars about the latest controversy, at its heart is the party’s attempt to do the right thing, to develop an affirmative action plan to assure party inclusiveness and full participation by underrepresented groups and peoples.
The most infuriating thing about the controversy is that it gives the state Republican Party another opportunity to make hay at Democrats’ expense, since the GOP doesn’t have to give a hoot about diversity or inclusiveness.
They don’t get into infighting over whether their affirmative action policies are inclusive enough. They don’t particularly care if women and minorities have a voice in the party. All they care about is winning elections, by any means necessary, and they’ve become good at it.
Faced with the reality that a majority of Americans oppose the GOP platform, to the extent that one exists, and recognizing that significant numbers of the American public are not particularly bright nor particularly engaged, Republicans simply fabricate controversies, be it cancel culture, transgender athletes or critical race theory to stir up their electorate, instilling fear and hatred as motivations.
Unless you’ve attended law school or taken certain postgraduate programs, you’ve likely never studied critical race theory, yet suddenly it has emerged as the GOP’s latest bugaboo, as Republicans have twisted the academic concept with false allegations that the left is trying to rewrite American history in order to portray white Americans as inherently racist.
As a personal aside, my recent reading of Thomas Ricks’ “First Principles” rekindled my interest in one of the most glaring hypocrisies in American history: How could the Founding Fathers and authors of the Constitution, brilliant men who established the groundbreaking concept of governance that all people are equal, cast a blind eye to the institution of slavery?
(That hypocrisy is particularly blatant in that, leading up to the Revolutionary War, several of the Founding Fathers, including slave owner Thomas Jefferson, published essays likening the British control of the colonies to slavery.)
I’ve since read “Slavery’s Constitution” by David Waldstreicher, and am getting ready to start on “No Property In Man — Slavery and Anti-Slavery at the Nation’s Founding.”
Suffice to say, the answer is more complicated than the simplistic rhetoric the right uses to stir up its base.
On one level, it was a matter of pure, old-fashioned political pragmatism, given that without support from pro-slavery Southern states, the Constitution could not have been ratified.
One interesting lesson from my readings is that while we tend be taught that the Founding Fathers’ advocacy for a well-armed militia in the Second Amendment was to be able to repel foreign invaders, that is not exactly true.
Militias did play a secondary role in the Revolutionary War, mostly to disrupt movements of troops and supplies behind the lines, but the regular Army did the lion’s share of fighting.
No, what really concerned the Founding Fathers were domestic insurrections, of which there had been several leading up to the Revolutionary War, and the most feared of potential domestic insurrections — as Ricks and Waldstreicher note — were slave rebellions.
Arguably, the authors of the Second Amendment did not envision well-armed militias as a defense against foreign invaders but as a means to put down slave revolts.
Whitewashing history doesn’t change history. Understanding the many inglorious elements of our past better prepares us to address inequities in the future.
Speaking of Republicans, imagine the holy hell they’d be raising over Gov. Jim Justice wasting $10 million-plus of taxpayer dollars for his bogus vaccination incentive sweepstakes, if Big Jim had a D behind his name.
As noted here before, the sweepstakes is nothing but a flagrant act of self-aggrandizement, with Justice deciding to put on a sweepstakes twice as big as the one Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has staged, garnering national publicity that Big Jim covets so much.
Unlike Ohio, where vaccination rates jumped 45% following announcement of five $1 million prizes in that state’s vaccination lottery, vaccination rates in West Virginia have continued to plummet despite Big Jim’s offering of millions in cash and prize incentives.
(In the past week, the state administered just 5,095 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, an average of 728 a day. On June 20, only 244 doses were administered — presumably because everyone was preoccupied with Justice’s announcement of the first round of sweepstakes winners.)
Never able to admit a mistake, Justice aims to plow ahead with the pricey program, even though rather than incentivizing the vaccine hesitant, the program is destined to reward those who had the common sense to get vaccinated early on – without needing any incentive other than to protect their health and the health of those around them.
Justice said Tuesday that if the sweepstakes convinces only 3,300 additional West Virginians to get their shots, it will be worth it.
Yes, but at a cost of more than $3,000 per person.
Justice cavalierly dismissed the cost of his sweepstakes, saying, “It is taxpayer dollars, but it’s coming from the federal government. It’s not coming out of our pocket in West Virginia.”
(From his perspective, Justice might believe West Virginians don’t pay federal taxes.)
Think of all the ways that $10 million could be better spent. Perhaps making rent payments for West Virginians about to be evicted from their homes and apartments.
Instead, Justice has staged, for his own self-aggrandizement, a pricey, $10 million-plus extravaganza that ultimately has failed to motivate the vaccine hesitant or anti-vaxxers.
Yet, not a peep out of our supposedly fiscally conservative legislative leadership.
Finally, if you were applying for a job in mass media and during the interview made the comment, “I wish I could say I coined the phrase “fake news,” but I didn’t,” unless you were applying for a commentator position at Fox News or NewsMax, you could be pretty certain the interview would be cut short, and you’d quickly be shown the door.
However, in the bizzaro world of GOP politics, that answer nailed the job interview.
At least it did for GOP operative Greg Thomas, who won over Senate Republicans with his fake news criticism. They unanimously confirmed him as one of Justice’s appointees to the state Educational Broadcasting Authority on a party line vote, over objections from the woefully outnumbered Senate Democrats.
Thomas’ resume seems to be full of holes when it comes to qualifications for his appointed position. He told senators he doesn’t know much about the authority or West Virginia Public Broadcasting, neither watches nor owns a television and gets 99% of his news from social media.
When Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, questioned whether Thomas would be a real champion for Public Broadcasting, Thomas intimated that he hoped to reshape Public Broadcasting into something he could champion.
Yet, for all the red flags, Senate Republicans embraced Thomas, with Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr — who attempted in the regular session to defund Public Broadcasting — sharing Thomas’ concerns about the purported left-wing ideology at PBS.
It doesn’t bode well for an independent, non-partisan Educational Broadcasting Authority.