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Dark Money Attacks Over WV Foster Children’s Managed Care

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The attack videos darken the delegates' official portraits for a more ominous appearance. (1863 PAC/YouTube)
The attack videos darken the delegates' official portraits for a more ominous appearance. (1863 PAC/YouTube)
February 8, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A secretive group with unknown donors is attacking lawmakers who oppose granting a multi-million-dollar managed-care contract for West Virginia foster children. One lawmaker calls it "underhanded and misleading" to suggest he doesn't support foster families.

Del. Cody Thompson, D-Elkins, got a spam text on his phone that linked to an attack video aimed at him. He said at least a half-dozen delegates have been targeted with nearly identical videos because they disagreed with privatizing the care.

"Adamant supporters for our foster-care children, but they're trying to sway the public that we're not in favor of helping to find a solution, and that's not the case," Thompson said. "But we don't necessarily believe that turning to a privatized system is the best answer."

The attack videos are from the "1863 PAC," a group that doesn't disclose its funding sources, and requests for comment were not returned. Supporters of one centralized, managed-care contract have said it would help ensure that no foster children fall though the cracks. Opponents of paying a for-profit company for the work say that would drain badly needed funds away from the state foster-care system.

House Bill 2010 is a large piece of legislation aimed at what many agree is a crisis in state foster care, much of it driven by families with drug problems. The managed-care provision is just one part of the bill.

Thompson said one of the frustrating things about the attack is that it takes a complex and difficult policy debate and turns it into a cartoon battle of good versus evil.

"It was very underhanded, very misleading," he said. "Del. (Chad) Lovejoy (D-Huntington), his son received a text message and his son texted his father and said, 'Well, dad, what's going on?' That's just a very underhanded, low-ball tactic."

HB 2010 has passed out of the House and now is in the state Senate.

The video is online at youtube.com, and details of HB 2010 are at wvlegislature.gov.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV