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Complex Cuccinelli counsel controversy continues

By   /   June 13, 2013  /   1 Comment

ENERGY INTERESTS: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has come under fire for his office's connections to out-of-state energy companies in a legal dispute with Virginia residents.

ENERGY INTERESTS: Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has come under fire for his office’s connections to out-of-state energy companies in a legal dispute with Virginia residents.

ALEXANDRIA—The controversy over whether Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office acted inappropriately by corresponding with out-of-state energy companies in a legal dispute with residents in southwest Virginia over natural gas royalties added one more layer on Thursday.

In a conference call with reporters, Republican Party of Virginia spokesman Garren Shipley, accompanied by state Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax, and Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, said the Democratic state senator who called for an independent investigation into Cuccinelli’s relationship with the companies has a financial interest in the case.

Shipley said Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, should have told the public that he is an official at the bank that manages an escrow account holding nearly $28 million in disputed natural gas royalties, Shipley said. And by supporting a class-action lawsuit against the companies, Shipley said the case could drag on, increasing the interest payments in the account.

“Before Phil Puckett called for an investigation, should he have revealed his own interest in this case?” Shipley said.

Puckett, vice president of business development at First Bank and Trust Co., said, he isn’t involved in the account.

“I understand politics, and they can do whatever they want,” Puckett said in an interview with the Washington Post. “I would welcome anyone that wants to contact the Inspector General’s office to go ahead.”

But of course, Cuccinelli has his own financial interests in this battle. CONSOL Energy, one of the companies involved in the dispute, has donated well over $100,000 to Republican Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign directly.

It’s just the latest sticky situation for Cuccinelli, already under intense scrutiny for his ties to pharmaceutical company Star Scientific.

Most recently, Democrats have nailed Cuccinelli and his office for reportedly aiding lawyers for EQT Production Co. and CONSOL, two Pennsylvania energy companies, in their dispute with Virginia landowners who say the companies cheated them out of royalty payments.

Republicans on Thursday defended the attorney general.

“He has the legal obligation to protect our Virginia statute from legal threats, and that’s what he’s been doing,” Kilgore said.

But, Kilgore said he has no problem with the Office of the Inspector General investigating the matter.

“I have no problem with that. If they do (investigate), they’re going to find that the attorney general’s office acted in good faith and according to law,” Kilgore said.

— Kathryn Watson

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Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau. Her work has appeared in places like Drudge Report, Washington Examiner, Reason and Human Events, and she has made appearances on Fox News and NBC4. An alumna of the National Journalism Center, Katie is a member of Investigative Reporters Editors. She graduated with a journalism degree and highest honors from Biola University in L.A., where she ran the student newspaper. Her work has earned her "Best in Show" and two first-place awards from the Virginia Press Association.

  • Pam

    Why I won’t vote for Ken Cuccinelli – the Republican governor candidate in Virginia:
    1. He is against legislation for Violence Against Women.
    2. Wants to ban oral sex in married and unmarried bedrooms and have it as a felony.
    3. Against equal rights for gays and equal rights for women
    4. Wants to change the motto on the Virginian flag to a Confederate motto.
    5. Wants to limit voting rights on minorities, women, college students, and gays.
    6. Wants to bring back the John Crow laws on minorities.
    7. Wants all homosexuals to go to jail.
    8. Wants the state of Virginia to have the power to override federal law.
    9. Does not believe in equal rights for everyone.
    10. Has sued the EPA.
    11. Does not believe in climate change.
    12. Does not believe in healthcare for all.
    13. Does not believe that everyone should have a chance for education.
    14. Associates with the KKK and racism.
    15. Harrasses scientists.

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