|By Bob Weaver|
Gov. Jim Justice appears to have joined a long history of WV governors, both Democrat and Republican, who practiced nefarious business practices, some of them going to prison, nearly all in cahoots with the state's extractive industries.
Many West Virginian's continued to support them, despite their criminal behavior.
Justice promised to wipe out his family's debt from mine safety violations when he ran for governor in 2016. Instead, that debt has more than doubled since NPR first reported on it in 2014, amounting to millions of dollars.
"We'll absolutely ... make sure that every one of [the debts] is taken care of," Justice said at a news conference announcing his campaign for governor.
The previous holder of safety and environmental fines in the USA was by Don Blankenship's Massey Energy, in the multi-millions.
The Justice companies owe more than $4 million to the federal government, according to a new Ohio Valley ReSource analysis of federal data. That's the highest delinquent mine safety debt in the U.S. mining industry.
Federal prosecutors have now issued a sweeping subpoena for records related to a resort owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
A spokeswoman for the state commerce department provided a copy of the subpoena.
The subpoena requests contracts, communications and financial records from the state relating to The Greenbrier resort and its annual PGA golf tournament. It names Justice as well as his son and daughter.
Justice has often been a very colorful figure since being elected governor in 2016, but his business practices before and since then are raising a lot of questions.
"Forbes" magazine has an article in which it calls Justice, "The Deadbeat Billionaire." Among the claims, Justice owes $2 million in back taxes to a Kentucky county. Another Justice company owes the IRS over one-million dollars. And that Justice companies may owe the State of Virginia up to $200 million for mine reclamation, something Justice has disputed.
So far, the reaction has been somewhat critical, but many of the nation's politicians seem to have been highly accepted despite tortuous financial practices, including President Donald Trump - the new normal.
Justice is an avid supporter of Trump.
"This individual leaves a trail of bad debt and a trail of corportate debris everywhere he goes. And he doesn't represent business well because most business people are honest people and they pay their bills," said Danny Jones, Former Charleston Mayor.
"It's unfortunate when West Virginia is in the national news for something negative like that. It's not a good look for the state," said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D-Kanawha).
The Governor issued a statement on the Forbes article, saying in part, "...my family and I stepped up to the plate and turned these distressed, bankrupt businesses around. It's been a long battle but every tax has been paid or will be paid. To characterize me as a deadbeat is just dead wrong." Last August Justice paid millions in back taxes, fines and penalties to West Virginia.
It is not certain when other Justice debts will be paid up.
The Forbes article was not the only headache for Justice. Two county Republican committees have approved a 'no confidence' vote on the Governor's leadership. Another county, however, did give Justice a vote of confidence.
State Republicans are upset with Justice related to the failing of the Omnibus Education bill which supported giving taxpayer money to fund private Charter Schools and measures which move on destroying the state teachers union.