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Raese’s Companies Relied on Government Contracts in West Virginia

With the Senate race in West Virginia between sitting Gov. Joe Manchin (D) and businessman John Raese in a virtual dead heat going into the final week, Manchin’s camp is touting an article in Sunday’s Charleston Gazette which calculates that Raese’s corporation, Greer Industries, benefited from about $32 million in state contracts and $2.4 million in federal contracts between 2000 and 2009.

There’s nothing inherently untoward about the manner in which Greer, a Morgantown-based network of businesses that deal in limestone, steel and asphalt, among other interests, won the contracts, but in a race steeped with rhetoric about the role of government spending, the Manchin camp hopes it will highlight the hypocrisy of its opponent, who recently told the Associated Press that he “can’t think of very many times when a government agency has helped me.”

Just last week, the candidates debated about the role of federal earmarks, which Raese derided but Manchin said were crucial for West Virginia’s infrastructure needs in rural areas where the private sector is unwilling to invest. Indeed, West Virginia is displaying the same schizophrenic attitude towards earmarks and government spending as the rest of the country — only it’s magnified by the conflicting pulls of the sharp conservative turn in the electorate and the worsening economic conditions in a poor state that relies on government help — and it’s proving a tough issue for both candidates to stake out positions as a result.

Raese’s grand pronouncements against state spending resonate with voters fed up with or worried about federal government spending, but they also leave him vulnerable to the claims that his broad opposition would have an impact on a number of projects that are easy to point to in West Virginia. And while government spending is looking pretty bad to voters in abstract, it still can look a lot like jobs when presented to them as a factory or public works project in their district.

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