Manchin’s New Role?

President Joe Biden must now name someone to the seat of Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court.  The appointment of Vice President Kamala Harris would solve a number of problems for the administration.

Another Biden problem has been Senator Joe Manchin (D. WV).  Why not take care of this and select Senator Manchin as Vice President?  This action by President Biden would sent a message to the country of his moving back to the center.

There would be no better person to guide a new approach to Biden’s new Build Back Better proposal.  With Democrats facing difficult mid-term elections Joe Manchin is an unbelievable campaigner.

Putting Manchin in the Vice President’s office would open the senate seat for West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to fill with a Republican.  That would not be good for the President.  However, Justice has no loyalty.  Remember he was elected Governor as a Democrat.  Along comes President Donald Trump and Governor Justice changes to Republican.

Followers of West Virginia politics know former Democratic State Party Chairman Larry Puccio is Manchin’s best friend.  Puccio is a lobbyist for Governor Justice’s Greenbrier Hotel.  Besides it was Senator Manchin & Puccio who ask Justice to run for Governor in the first place.  Puccio managed the successful Justice campaign in 2016.

Don’t you think party registration could be worked out in this case?  Justice becomes a Democrat, appoints himself to the Senate seat held by Manchin.

There you have it!



A Toxic Mess

(Editor’s note:  To view the article click on “Congress Has Become a Toxic Mess. Can It Be Saved?” )

“Congress Has Become a Toxic Mess.  Can It Be Saved?  was the subject of Carl Hulse’s “On Washington” column recently in the New York Times.  Hopefully, every Member of Congress has read it as they await the release of a report commissioned by the Association of Former Members of Congress. Since I spent several years working in and with the Congress, I read the column with interest.

Thinking back, I believe it was the establishment of the electronic voting system in 1970’s that started this “toxic mess.”  Before electronic voting roll calls took up to 45 minutes. Previously while waiting for their name to be called Members visited with each other and built relationships.  Relationships were how things got done in that days. With the new system Members entered the Chamber pushed their voting card into the machine…and off they go.

Now when a new Member of Congress is elected they only get to know those in their class or colleagues on the committees to which they are assigned. It takes more relationships than that to accomplish anything in that body.

Today due to the pandemic the House leadership has pushed thru voting by proxy. This further  contributes to the lack of relationships.

Let’s hope the Association of Former Members of Congress have some strong recommendations that will be taken seriously when the 117th session of Congress convenes January 3, 2021.


It’s About Time

(Editors note: The writer served on the West Virginia Racing Commission & International Association of Racing Commissioners board.)

It’s About Time

As an avid racing fan & former racing regulator I am disgusted it took the FBI and Department of Justice to uncover this unbelievable doping scheme. As currently structured, it is up to state racing commissions to clean up this mess and prevent future ones. They should be given all support needed by ALL national organizations. It is long past time for formal statements of concern. Regulators should take action today!

1. State racing commissions using their licensing powers should convene an in person mandatory meeting of track management, racing stewards, veterinarians & senior staff. Each should be put on notice they must clean up any questionable matters with dispatch. In no uncertain terms let them know their future is on the line.

2. Increase “on the ground” investigators at every track and provide “state of the art” tools & education for investigators. If necessary, ask for assistance from local law enforcement or the FBI.

3. Review and strengthen testing barn methods and protocols.

4. Immediately begin or increase unexpected out-of-competition testing at track barns and farms where racehorses reside.

5. Remove questionable “characters” from track property. No doubt those around the race track know the cheaters & droppers.

6. Protect all informants.

These actions should be communicated to the betting public and policy makers. They are looking for state regulators to step up and stop doping and cheaters.

Racing’s Demise

Racing’s Demise

After seeing a picture of a deceased Mountaineer race horse in a local landfill I can no longer withhold my concerns.  This photograph conveys the condition of those responsible for management and oversight of the racing industry in West Virginia.

There is no accountability or interest in assuring a quality product for the fans, horse owners, trainers or others involved in the sport.  This includes the Racing Commission, Governor, Legislature, state government bureaucracy and racetrack management.

Based on personal experience, after being appointed to the Racing Commission, I observed a general lack of interest and commitment.  Meetings were not held on a regular basis, often attendance was by telephone, meeting agendas were mostly “housekeeping” matters and there was a rush to adjourn.  It seemed enforcement of rules and regulations was not “top of mind.”  Serious issues were avoided.

The Executive Director was pre-occupied and not held accountable. Technology was outdated and held hostage by it’s manager who was the only person in the organization who knew how to operate the system.  Licensing records and issues were either months behind or not coordinated with the Association of Racing Commissioners International.  More importantly there was no interest in professional training for the staff.  In fact, just after I arrived I recall a horse was “apparently killed” at Mountaineer and it took several days before anyone visited the track to start an investigation.

Bringing about change was next to impossible when there were only three Commissioners…as the old saying goes “it takes two to tango.”  In fairness my fellow Commissioners joined me in asking to have our tracks accredited by the Safety & Integrity Alliance of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.  A team of experts conducted an audit.  My appointment to the Commission was rescinded.  The report was never publicity released nor to my knowledge implemented.  An excellent example of lack of interest and accountability.

Let’s pray this unfortunate horse laid to rest in a garage dump will serve as a wake up call for the West Virginia Racing Commission.

Oh My!

There’s more to the “no confidence” resolutions being adopted by Republicans across the state than to send Governor Jim Justice a message.  Nor was it about not following the Republican platform – which I doubt 100 Republicans have even read. What is going on is raw politics.

It appears aggressive political operatives saw an opportunity with Kanawha County Republican Executive Committee having vacant committee members. Before offering such a resolution they had to control the committee.  They gathered up willing bodies and were successful in getting them into the open slots. The end result a “no confidence” resolution. What a better place to use the “voice” of Kanawha Republicans to take shot at their Governor than in the political capital of West Virginia.

Watch out Governor Justice there are many county committees like Kanawha sitting there just for the asking. All it takes is a little effort by aggressive battle tested operatives with an agenda.

With little thought in this case the agenda has to involve Don Blankenship. Could it be Don Blankenship and his long time crew are preparing to challenge Governor Justice in 2020 and take over the Republican Party in the process?


Why Not?

“Racing is in need of open-heart Surgery” Dean Crutchfield, senior vice president of Sterling Brands said in The Guardian story entitled “American horse racing isn’t dead – but it’s getting awfully close”.

Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens says “we need to come together as a nation of horsemen with a commissioner.”

Bill Oppenheim in a Bloodhorse opinion piece wrote “the organizations with initials need to undertake a real effort to create an effective national office.”

The “Horse Racing Integrity Act” has been languishing in Congress since 2015. The idea here is to have a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority manage a national medication program.

Respected horse trainer Graham Motion pointed out in a letter published by Thoroughbred Daily News “we constantly hurt ourselves not being represented by “a governing body who can guide us….and bring some kind of national stability to our industry.”

There was hope for an answer when three years ago the Association of Racing Commissioners International held “Town Hall” meetings across the country and convened a “leaders meeting” with the top brass from the “initial organizations.” These resulted in frank discussions.

With the issues being raised at Santa Anita and the Kentucky Derby on the horizon the national news services are paying attention. Thus, Governor’s in state capitals (33) will soon have racing issues on their desk.

Maybe what’s needed is for a Governor to step forward and ask their colleagues to send their Chair of the 33 state regulatory commissions to a national meeting. These are the people with the power to unite the industry, agree on regulations that would be the same in each jurisdiction and urge their Governor to issue an executive order putting them in place.

Why Not?


I am disgusted. What’s going on in the Republican Party in West Virginia?

Though I no longer reside or vote in West Virginia I spent a lifetime there building the Republican Party and advancing the two party system.

What took place during WV GOP day at the Capitol last week disgusts me. Messaging that included posters and pamphlets that were anti-Muslin, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee.

This puts the icing on the cake that has been baking for while in the Republican Party.

Our State has a Republican Governor (?) and control of both Houses of the Legislature. Thus, they should not turn a blind eye as to what is displaying at special days at the Legislature when the work of various organizations and industries is recognized.

Where is responsible leadership? I can tell you neither Arch Moore nor Cecil Underwood would have put up with what’s been going on in the Republican Party for a minute.

Maybe it’s time for “old timers” like me to step up and take over – until the Party grows up.

If only I was still there!

Post Script

If you have not heard what took place or read the news recently click HERE.  Steve Allen Adams, an accomplished statehouse reporter, provides insight and his opinion.


Nothing Is Secret

(Editor’s note: Served as a Member of the WV Racing Commission from February, 2013 until January 31, 2017 when Governor Justice replaced me after taking office.)

The West Virginia Racing Commission will again make their meetings available via conference call. Chairman Jack Rossi deserves a vote of thanks from the horseman, track officials and this blog.  He stepped up and corrected the elimination meeting conference calls.

This was a convenient means of communication between the commission and its constituents.  The racing industry needed to know what the Commissioners were discussing at their meetings.  Conference calls were a cost effective way to accomplish that objective.

Racing Commissioners are now owed the respect of those participating by conference call. Callers must put their phones on mute as past meetings were disrupted by barking dogs and other unneeded noises.  The Commission is conducting important business which impacts a challenged industry.

The WV Racing Commission was not trying to “hide” anything. They were seeking a quite decision making environment.

(PS – It begins again today at 2PM. To connect 312..757.3111 with access code 638912285.  Remember be quite.)


“Be Prepared”

Last week the U. S. Supreme Court  said it will hear New Jersey’s appeal to legalize sports betting. West Virginia Governor Justice, Members of the Legislature and the racing industry needs to “Be Prepared.”

Phil Kabler has an encouraging story in today’s Gazette-Mail. Of course, everything at this point is speculation.  However, revenue potential is out there if WV gets ahead of the Border States as it did with the Lottery.

Governor Justice and the Legislature need to do something similar to a Maryland proposal. West Virginia needs to  establish a working group to monitor the recent developments, study how sports’ betting was implemented in other states; and recommend changes needed to facilitate sports betting in West Virginia and offer a beginning point for revenue allocation.

The allocation of potential revenue is where the racing industry comes in.

Horse & greyhound owners, trainers, breeders and Jockeys need to develop a strategy. There should not be a Charles Town, Mountaineer, Mardi Gras or Wheeling Island strategy but an industry wide one.   It needs to address research, planning, and relationship building, messaging, fund raising and political engagement.

It can no longer be business as usual for government leaders. The racing industry needs to come together.  Fresh thinking and an open mind to doing new things will be required.

Act Now

The Herald Dispatch in Huntington today ran the editorial below calling attention to online gambling being looked at by various states. has called attention to this revenue opportunity that West Virginia should consider.  The Huntington newspaper has well stated the case.

[Editorial: More states are considering online gambling]

West Virginia got into the gambling business 30 years ago, and for much of that time, the Mountain State stayed ahead of the game.

It began in 1986 with instant lottery tickets and a prize of $5,000, and the state netted about $20 million that first year. Those revenues grew steadily of the next two decades, and casinos and race tracks in the panhandles attracted visitors from other states, where gambling was more limited.

But it soon became clear that maintaining that revenue stream meant staying “competitive.”

As neighboring states added lotteries or expanded casino options, West Virginia did, too. Total gaming revenues continued to rise until the Great Recession, topping out at almost $1.6 billion in 2007. But the trend line has been up and down since then, and unfortunately, mostly down.

After bouncing back to almost pre-recession levels in 2012, revenues have declined each of the last four years, largely due to competition. Neighboring states, particularly Ohio and Maryland, have added new casinos and gaming options, and the customers West Virginia once got from those states come less often if at all.

But now Mountain State gaming venues and the state lotteries face a new, less visible but even more powerful competitor — the internet.

Online gambling is changing the face of gaming around the world. In Europe, some estimate that online games now have almost 20 percent of the gambling market. In the United States, online games already have cut into revenues for almost every gaming state, especially among young adults who seem to prefer gambling by computer or smart phone to traveling to casinos and race tracks.

A couple of big gambling states, New Jersey and Nevada, have decided “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” In those states, in-state residents can go to websites run by casinos in the state and gamble, the Stateline News Service reports. Unlike other “off-shore” online gambling, which states cannot tax, this system allows New Jersey and Nevada to get a little piece of that state-sanctioned online action.

The news from New Jersey is encouraging. Officials have found the new revenue from online games has helped offset the losses at casinos.

Not surprisingly, several other states are considering actions to allow similar online gaming in their states. In West Virginia, a House bill to make existing gaming sites eligible for an online gaming license ended the session still in committee.

Could online gaming help West Virginia hold onto its gaming revenue a little longer? Almost certainly. But can it ensure a stable revenue stream for the future? That seems unlikely. The competition will no longer just be casinos in neighboring states, but gambling options around the world.

Over the years, gambling revenues have done a lot of good for West Virginia. Officials estimate they have generated more than $9 billion for programs such school improvements and scholarships, senior services and tourism promotion. But state leaders need to recognize those revenues will likely continue to decline, and the state will need other resources to support those programs.

Links to previous blogs on this subject.