On Tuesday, Forbes magazine published an article about West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and his numerous business assets. The governor later called the article a “political hit piece” and claimed it was full of inaccuracies and exaggerations.
To Governor Justice’s credit, we believe he wants his claims to be true. But reality does not bend to the whims of an individual, no matter their net worth. And if even half of the claims or figures in the Forbes article are true, our governor has a serious problem.
The credibility of the article seems to be boosted by a federal subpoena, issued to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, which asks the department to provide all records involving The Greenbrier, The Greenbrier Classic, A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, and Old White Charities.
Aside from what appears to be a federal investigation involving the governor’s Greenbriar properties, another serious situation is highlighted by the Forbes article: the one between Kentucky Fuel and Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet.
According to the Forbes article, Kentucky Fuel, which is owned by Justice and his children, entered an agreement with the state of Kentucky to complete land reclamation work on Kentucky Fuel’s mines by November 2015. In exchange, the $4.5 million in civil penalties owed was reduced to $1.5 million.
Nearly four years after the work was supposed to be completed, it is still not finished. What’s more, Kentucky Fuel was also caught mining without a permit in an area where the state had ordered work halted three times, and last year, the attorney for Kentucky’s Knott County sued Kentucky Fuel, seeking $2 million in back taxes.
Gov. Justice maintains that he and his companies have done nothing wrong, even going as far as saying the Kentucky cabinet should thank him for fixing mining violations over the past five years.
The problem is, these issues are not even new revelations – Justice faced criticism over the taxes he owed in Kentucky back when he was on the campaign trail. The idea that this article is politically motivated seems misguided at best, and if the information contained within is untrue, Justice has had years to make his case and prove otherwise.
We don’t want these things to be true of our state’s governor. We want to believe Justice acts in accordance with the state’s best interests. And we certainly believe in innocence until proof of guilt.
But Justice’s response seems thin.
Claiming a news organization is presenting exaggerations and inaccuracies is not a new tactic in today’s political environment, and seldom are there lies of this nature that can’t be proven untrue. If Justice has violated the law in his business practices, he should be held responsible.
And if Justice – a man who switched political parties to run for governor and then switched back months after he was elected – wants us to see him has trustworthy or believable, he needs to come to the table with a little more substance.