RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - An investigation by the state inspector general concludes that an assistant to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli improperly offered legal advice to two energy companies sued by southwest Virginia residents for allegedly cheating them out of royalty payments for natural gas drilled on their land.
Inspector General Michael Morehart issued his findings Tuesday regarding an assistant attorney general whose correspondence with EQT Production Co. and CNX Gas Co. prompted a federal magistrate to write that she was shocked by the attorney's advice to the companies on how to fight the lawsuits.
The revelation has been an embarrassment for Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor whose campaign received more than $100,000 from CONSOL Energy, the parent company of CNX. Cuccinelli has said the assistant attorney general went too far.
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The McAuliffe campaign released the following statement on the inspector general report:
"The Virginia Inspector General confirmed today what Virginians have found troubling for months--that Ken Cuccinelli's office had stepped over the line and improperly used taxpayer funds to advise out-of-state energy companies trying to avoid paying Southwest Virginia landowners mining royalties that are rightfully theirs," said McAuliffe spokesperson Josh Schwerin. "Ken Cuccinelli, who received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from one of these energy companies, should immediately return the money he received and show that he's willing to put his own agenda aside to do what's best for Virginia."
The Cuccinelli campaign released the following statement on the inspector general report:
"Today's Inspector General found no wrongdoing by Attorney General Cuccinelli, period. As the report makes clear, Ken had no prior knowledge of the assistant AG's inappropriate emails, nor did he authorize them. He has also taken corrective action. Terry McAuliffe is desperately saying and doing anything to cover up the fact he can't explain various aspects of his failed business record starting with the two federal investigations involving GreenTech Automotive, or the revelations that he profited from the death of terminally ill people. "