Sustained Outrage

Wrongway McClendon?


Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon is blaming his company’s elimination of 215 Charleston jobs on the big oil and gas leasing rip-off verdict against his company.

Two years ago, when the Roane County, W.Va., jury came out with its verdict, McClendon was quick to attack the state’s legal system. He fumed about it in a Jan. 28, 2007, email to Gov. Joe Manchin, which the Gazette obtained under the state Freedom of Information Act.

But it looks like McClendon needed a geography lesson:

Governor Manchin: please read these attached press releases and let me know if you are able to visit with me tomorrow about this ridiculous outcome … 

It took a jury in Sloane County all of 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon to render what I am told is now West Virginia’s largest punitive verdict ever.

For the record, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Web site does not list a Sloane County anywhere in the country.

McClendon was in the news in early February when The Wall Street Journal reported that he was  selling off his prized wine collection — at an expected price of at least $5 million:

Mr. McClendon is one of the top wine collectors in the country, known for his love of Burgundy and Bordeaux. He also is known for his cash crunch. Last fall, he was forced to sell 94% of his stake in Chesapeake to pay back margin loans. Mr. McClendon’s stake once was valued at more than $2 billion. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to want to liquidate some of his, er, liquid assets.

The McClendon collection may fare better than others. It features more than 1,500 bottles of Domaine de la Romanee Conti–a favorite Chateaux of the nouveaux that has held up relatively well in price. The collection also has plenty of Mouton Rothschild, Margaux and Lafite, also blue-chip names.

Meanwhile, in using the Chesapeake situation to criticize West Virginia’s court system, a spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association went so far as to compare those who don’t agree with the “judicial hellhole” crowd to “Holocaust deniers.”

Chesapeake’s decision to take more good-paying jobs out of West Virginia, citing the unfair civil justice system there, ought to silence once and for all the propagandists who keep insisting that the state isn’t a ‘judicial hellhole,'” Darren McKinney said. “Like Holocaust deniers, the Mountain State’s ‘hellholes’ deniers, from Darrell McGraw and Fran Hughes to law professor Elizabeth Thornburg and Allan Karlin at the state trial lawyers association, are all free to pretend there’s nothing wrong.

In response, Dennis Sparks of the West Virginia Council of Churches issued this statement:

The Holocaust is one of the greatest travesties in the history of the world.  It is unethical and irresponsible to try to advance a political agenda by putting the Holocaust into a political debate in an attempt to get a good quote in the newspaper.  Regardless of what side we may be on with this particular issue, there is no question that this is wrong,

 The American Tort Reform Association should retract its statement and issue a public apology—particularly to those individuals named in the statement.  One of them, Allan Karlin, is not only an individual of Jewish faith, but also someone who has devoted his adult life to be a leading human rights advocate in this state.  To liken him to a Holocaust denier is not only irresponsible, but wrong.