The August recess is a time when members of Congress are supposed to come back to their districts for town halls, meetings with constituents and fundraisers. Yet our congressman, Alex Mooney, has not announced any events in his home district for this month.
For those that follow politics, this is not exactly a surprise. Since his election in November 2014 — shortly after moving to the Eastern Panhandle from Maryland in order to run for office in West Virginia — Mooney has so rarely been seen in his district that his absence has become a running joke.
Mooney does not seem at all interested in representing the interests of ordinary West Virginians, or even taking the time to find out what those interests might be.
It’s no secret that politicians often tend to put the interests of wealthy donors above ordinary constituents, but no one flaunts this in West Virginia quite as much as Alex Mooney. His attitude seems to be, why bother to get to know your constituents if you can find large, out-of-state donors to continue bankrolling your campaigns?
An article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail last month (“Out-of-state donations fuel Mooney’s campaign”) stated that only “14 West Virginians donated a total of $8,200 to his re-election bid between April 1 and June 30 , roughly 7 percent of the $110,211 he’s raised from individuals in that time.”
Mooney has seemingly not had trouble raising over $1 million each election, despite his lack of interaction with West Virginia constituents; in the 2016 election, he outspent his opponent by more than two to one. In 2016, he raised more than $120,000 from “Leadership PACs” established by other prominent politicians (including $10,000 each from PACs affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise).
It should not come as a surprise, therefore, when Mooney puts the interests of big donors and Washington insiders first.
Take health care, for example. Around 175,000 West Virginians gained insurance through Medicaid expansion, but Mooney doesn’t seem to care about that, having voted earlier this year for a bill that would have cut funding for Medicaid by more than $800 billion over 10 years and phased out the Medicaid expansion. The health care bill passed by the House of Representatives would have made it more expensive for people with pre-existing conditions to get care. It would have cut taxes, however, for medical device manufacturers, health insurers and people making over $200,000 a year — a class that doubtless includes many of Mooney’s wealthy donors.
We need real leadership in our state to propose real solutions to our broken health care system that still leaves many uninsured or without access to adequate care. Leadership that recognizes that throwing thousands of West Virginia families off of their health insurance is not the right solution. Leadership that knows and listens to ordinary West Virginians, not just wealthy donors and private companies that stand to profit from our health. Leadership that will stand behind policies, like Medicare for All, that would truly benefit all West Virginians.
But, ultimately, it is our responsibility, as residents of West Virginia’s 2nd district, to turn up the pressure on Alex Mooney to actually represent us, not just his out-of-state campaign donors. And, if he doesn’t, to elect someone who will.
Cathy Kunkel is a member of Rise Up WV.