WV House Majority Whip, Paul Espinosa, has been hired as ‘public relations’ spokesperson for controversial plant proposed in his own district.
Danish owners of the Rockwool plant being built in Jefferson County ran into strong objections from residents—so, what did they do? It appears they bought themselves a politician.
They hired the House Majority Whip, Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, as their ‘public relations’ spokesperson.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail penned an editorial titled “Espinosa's Rockwool job more than 'bad optics'” saying:
“So, it might not look great that Espinosa, while remaining a legislator, is taking a job that will literally have him conveying the public messages this corporate entity will want to push out...it’s just ‘bad optics,’ right?"
Of course, it's far more than that, the editorial went on to note.
This heavy manufacturing facility being built right across the road from an elementary school, will emit thousands of tons of pollution into the air and water of a rural community. The permits were ‘fast tracked’ before most locals even knew it was on the drawing board.
The fight against the Rockwool plant bled over into the 2018 elections, with voters throwing out two incumbents. Delegates who supported the plant in favor of sending Rockwool opponents to Charleston. Rockwool’s owners couldn’t win at the ballot box, so now they’re buying protection in the “the People’s House.”
Isn’t this the definition of corruption?
Since our WV legislature is only a part time gig, our lawmakers must also have ‘day jobs’ and this can lead to conflicts of interest between good public policy and the interests of their employers.
While there is a rule in the House of Delegates that requires lawmakers to ask to be excused from voting on such issues, these requests are almost never approved by the Speaker in charge. The Gazette article says:
"... 94 percent of the time, delegates were told they had to vote on an issue that, to those delegates, was a potential conflict of interest. After being told they had to vote, do you think those delegates would vote against legislation directly benefiting their employer but possibly hurting others?”
So, voters are left to wonder when their delegates, like Espinosa, are required to vote on issues conflicting with their employment, are they voting for our best interests?
Or are they voting for their paychecks?