West Virginia governor Jim Justice said this week a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) relating to the release of his official schedule or calendar is the result of fear that he may be elected to the U.S. Senate.
“Senate Democrats are scared to death that finally somebody is going to take (Sen. Joe) Manchin’s spot, whether he runs or not,” Justice said, adding that his win could mean the Republicans take back control of the U.S. Senate.
Justice is running for the GOP nod to try to win Manchin’s’ seat, facing Rep. Alex Mooney. Manchin has not yet said if he is running for reelection.
Justice said during his administration briefing that he does not even keep a calendar, and he works “all the time. I work every day because I love it.”
“It is nothing but a bunch of desperate Democratic senators that absolutely don’t want to give up their power,” he said of the current 51-49 edge the Democrats have.
The lawsuit comes after Justice’s office “repeatedly failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests for his official schedule or official calendar” and, according to The Associated Press, the suit comes after a 2019 analysis of seven months of Justice’s calendar revealed almost no meetings with his Cabinet and showed he was rarely at the Capitol. His schedule mostly showed him at photo ops or simply unaccounted for.
“When is enough enough?” Justice said of the lawsuit. “I work more hours and I am more dedicated in every way to this state than probably anybody who has ever been in this office. It is just dirty, no-good politics…”
Justice also pointed to his accomplishments as Governor, including taking over a state that was “dead flat broke” and now has huge surpluses.
That is an argument he also used to answer a question about the many court battles his family’s business, the Justice companies, is facing related to alleged unpaid debt, delinquent payments on benefits for coal miners and mine safety payments.
“Everybody likes to pile on stuff,” he said. “I am not running those businesses. I haven’t seen a set of books … from the companies in years.”
Justice also said many reports related to the companies’ legal issues and debts are “skewed one way or the other.”
He said his family’s companies will pay their bills.
“Any obligations or responsibilities the companies have, they will be taken care of,” he said, adding that with 100 companies sometimes issues will come up.
Justice said his ancestors started from scratch and “built an empire of businesses,” adding that he is not now involved in running the family’s companies. “I don’t have time to do it. I really am focused on one thing … to make things better for West Virginians.”
“I came to the governorship and brought my business skills that I am very proud of,” he said. “Look what has happened to this state.”
West Virginia had a $1.3 billion surplus last fiscal year and is expecting more than a $1.7 billion surplus this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
After the Freedom of Information Request was filed in the Governor’s office that wanted records of scheduled official meetings involving Justice since 2017 as well as meetings involving Justice’s Chief of Staff Brian Abraham, Deputy Chief of Staff Ann Urling and Berkeley Bentley, Justice’s General Counsel, a response was sent to the plaintiff.
Here is part of the response from Bentley on the FOIA request:
“We have completed our search for and review of the public records in our custody that are responsive to your request. Your request is denied to the extent if seeks records exempt from disclosure under West Virginia Code … Any calendar or notes which may contain information relating to official meetings of the Governor or senior staff mentioned above are only in draft format, contain appointments that may or may not occur, are revised daily, are never corrected, and are not an accurate log of such meetings. Further, any such calendars or notes are maintained exclusively for the personal convenience of those staff members to coordinate both personal and business appointments and are neither under the Office of the Governor’s control nor integrated into the Office of the Governor’s files.
“The responsibilities of the Office of the Governor in connection with your FOIA request are now at an end. If you are aggrieved by the denial of your request, FOIA affords you the opportunity to seek injunctive relief or declaratory relief in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia.”
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