West Virginia Attorney General Calls for an End to Taxpayer-funded Promotional Products
Elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility, West Virginia's new attorney general has targeted advertising and promotional products for his first budget cuts. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has called for ethics reforms for his office, starting with eliminating taxpayer-funded promotional campaigns and advertisements.
"I won't go through much in the way of trinkets now, because I think enough people have heard about my position on taxpayer-funded trinkets," he said at a press conference last Friday. "So, you will not be seeing any trinkets with my name or likeness on it, because that's an absolute waste and it's thinly veiled campaigning. That shouldn't happen."
The attorney general noted that he is not opposed to the use of promotional products in political campaigns as long as they are not paid for with taxpayer money. He said that his office also has a new advertising policy as part of his reforms.
Morrisey was elected last November when he defeated five-time democratic incumbent Darrell McGraw. Much of Morrisey's campaign focused on McGraw's heavy use of pens, calendars, key chains and other items with the former attorney general's name on them. Morrisey claimed that McGraw spent more than $750,000 of his 2012 budget on advertising. As part of his reforms, Morrisey said he would eliminate all advertising that includes the incumbent's name during election years.
"No advertising with my likeness or name on it during election season will be paid for by the office," Morrisey said at Saturday's 2013 Republican State Executive Committee Luncheon. "The trinket distribution has been dissolved."
Morrisey's comments were met with applause on Saturday, though not everyone is happy with his stance. Ryan Westerman, owner of distributor Artistic Promotions in Dunbar, W. Va., told the Charleston Daily Mail, "I am deeply concerned about our new attorney general and his attitude toward a very effective marketing approach—the use of promotional products. ... To mock those items he displayed in his latest press conference as a waste of taxpayer money is simple and misleading to say the least."
Westerman, who said he is a republican and agreed that McGraw should not have used taxpayer money to support his re-election, claimed he was more concerned that the attorney general's comments would send the wrong message. "Promotional products are a valuable and cost-effective tool to educate, inform and promote a cause for any office of the government," he said. "If our Attorney General thinks that magnets with important office numbers, email addresses or website listings are a waste of money, he needs to wake up."
The attorney general's reforms are not limited to promotional products. Morrisey said his name will not appear on educational brochures and other literature unless necessary, and that he would not appear in television or radio ads paid for by the office during election years. Other proposals on his agenda include prohibiting the use of state-owned vehicles in parades and limiting the attorney general to two terms in office.