Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Charleston Gazette-Mail. April XX, 2022.

Editorial: Dark money has no place in student elections

A while back, those on the far right — not the candidates or politicians, but the true kingmakers, those who held the purse strings — developed a strategy on how to further their ideals when they struggled to win presidential elections or keep control of Congress.

It was simple. Go after state legislatures and gubernatorial races. To some degree, it’s worked. West Virginia is a prime example. When Republican leadership took control of the Legislature for the first time in more than 80 years back in 2015, the agenda was primarily to break unions and making sure heavy industry wouldn’t get taken to the cleaners in court every time someone was seriously hurt or died because of company negligence. As time went on, social issues mirroring national politics — restricting access to abortion, squelching LGBTQ rights, etc. — started getting a lot of attention.

Not long ago, the right-wing machine took its strategy and started to look beyond even state government, seeing college campuses as the next battleground for control. Much of the argument centers on repeatedly screeching the false idea that higher education radicalizes America’s youth into neoliberals and is something to be feared. But it goes even further than that.

Turning Point USA, a political action committee led by uber right-winger Charlie Kirk, started putting money into college elections, through a subgroup called the Campus Leadership Project, trying to get kids to commit to bringing far-right ideology to a university’s student government association. This is taking place at colleges across the country.

In fact, it’s happened at West Virginia University. A story last month published in WVU’s student newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, showed that student government candidates had agreed to reimbursements from the Campus Leadership Project to cover the costs of campaign materials for the 2022 election. Some say they were not made aware of the organization’s intentions and declined the money, once they found out what the Campus Leadership Project was and learned of its ties to Turning Point.

The national group has been trying to influence student government elections since at least 2018. A brochure obtained by The Chronicle For Higher Education showed plans to create a speaking circuit for far-right conservatives at large universities and to defund progressive efforts at those schools. The goal is nothing short of taking control of every student government association at every major public university.

So, who is really doing the supposed brainwashing here?

College campuses should be havens for free thought and free speech, as long as it neither harms anyone nor encroaches on the rights of others. It’s a place where students expand their learning and develop a sense of who they are. Horizons are, in many cases, broadened. While this might surprise Turning Point, not everyone goes through a university education and comes out a liberal. Some find they are conservatives. Many students couldn’t care less about national politics and have little if any interest in the topic once they’ve obtained their degree.

Trying to warp student government associations into fiery pits of identity politics is a despicable strategy. One can only assume the next target will be student councils at high schools.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. April 19, 2022.

Editorial: Economy: Lawmakers should aid entrepreneurial spirit

During the pandemic, entrepreneurs across the country addressed financial challenges by starting their own businesses. In fact, 10% of U.S. workers are self-employed entrepreneurs now. But here in West Virginia, that number is considerably lower. According to a report by Commodity.com, only 6.8% of Mountain State workers are self-employed — the fewest of any state.

As in so many other categories, we are falling behind the rest of the country on this count, but we are not alone. Other states left behind during our decades-long economic transition — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana, for example — are near the bottom in the self-employment category, too.

Here’s where we stand: In 2020 there were 11,090 new business applications in West Virginia. That compares with an average of 85,428 throughout the rest of the country. Median annual income for full-time business owners here is $45,000. It is $52,000 for the country as a whole. In fact, the median annual income for all full-time workers in West Virginia is also $45,000. For the whole country, it is $53,000.

Most of the new businesses being started in the U.S. are in either retail trade or professional, scientific and technical services. Officials in West Virginia have steadfastly resisted transitioning our old economy in those directions for years. Now, only the bravest of entrepreneurs feel confident enough to try something new in the Mountain State, and bravo to them.

But they are not enough. Public officials have a responsibility to institute regulatory reform and legislation that will foster the entrepreneurial spirit, not frighten it away.

We are used to looking up from the bottom here, and it is a shame. But despite the knowledge there is a LONG way to go, Mountaineers are brave, intelligent, creative and hard-working enough to get there — if politicians and the bureaucracy will get out of their way.

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The Intelligencer. April 20, 2022.

Editorial: Funding Will Help W.Va. Communities

West Virginians should continue to elect federal lawmakers that serve the state’s needs first, not special interest groups in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., along with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are three such lawmakers, and they continue to show true leadership in putting West Virginia first with their votes in Congress.

The latest example comes with the announcement of $1.6 million from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to fund roads, schools and essential county services in rural communities that host U.S. Forest Service lands.

McKinley, Capito and Manchin supported the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as it will bring more than $6 billion to West Virginia for roads, bridges, expanded broadband access and other improvements — work that needs done for the benefit of those who live here and also those visiting. This funding for rural communities is one important piece of that larger puzzle.

“West Virginia’s national forests and parks are a place where many West Virginians and visitors enjoy our state’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities,” McKinley said. “But the surrounding communities often struggle with funding basic services and education. This funding announcement will continue… to provide help to rural counties by bolstering the Secure Rural Schools Program and improve the quality of life across West Virginia.”

McKinley, Manchin and Capito continue to put West Virginia first in their efforts in Washington. They visit with constituents in the state, they talk with city and county leaders to learn the issues, and then the help.

Mountain State residents should thank them for their efforts.

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