Rep. Alan Mollohan (D)
West Virginia 1st District
The northern part of West Virginia is in many ways an extension of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. People here are Steelers and Pirates fans, they drink Iron City and Rolling Rock beer, they watch Pittsburgh television, and they live in the crevasses between hills cut by the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, on terrain that seems to forbid industrial and urban development. Yet this has been one of America’s prime industrial areas. Northern West Virginia is part of the same coal-and-steel economy that made Pittsburgh one of the nation’s largest cities and filled the narrow bottomlands along the rivers with steel and glass factories, foundries and coal yards. These industries have been declining, and they have become far less labor-intensive. Since 1980, the 12,000 mining jobs in this part of the state have dropped by more than two-thirds, with comparable fall-offs in manufacturing. The Weirton tin and steel mill, which employed 14,000 in the mid-1970s and was the subject of an employee buyout at one point, was down to fewer than 1,000 workers in 2008. Service jobs have replaced some of these losses. West Virginia’s largest employer now is Wal-Mart, and the government has brought in thousands more jobs, compliments of the powerful Senate appropriator Robert Byrd, the West Virginia Democrat. One of the largest employers in Harrison County is the U.S. Department of Justice.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of West Virginia includes the northern third of the state and borders Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. On the panhandle along the Ohio River is Victorian Wheeling, once one of the richest cities in the country with its steel and glass companies. There is Weirton, named for Ernest T. Weir, the anti-union Pittsburgh industrialist who transformed it from a farming community to a steel town in the early 1900s. South of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River are Morgantown, site of West Virginia University and white-water rafting, as well as Fairmont and Clarksburg. To the west, the district includes three lonely mountain counties—Doddridge, Ritchie and Tyler—that were never heavily industrialized and have remained firmly Republican since the Civil War. Doddridge was the only one of West Virginia’s 55 counties to vote against Byrd for re-election in 2006. West of these, on the Ohio River, is the former oil-refining and shipping center of Parkersburg, which has become a plastics and manufacturing hub. From 2000 to 2007, the district lost 1% of its population; Morgantown gained 7%, while Wheeling and Parkersburg dropped 9% and 10%, respectively. For most of the 20th century, much of this territory was solidly Democratic. But dissatisfaction with the Clinton-Gore policies on coal mining and the environment helped Republican George W. Bush carry the district twice. And in 2008, GOP nominee John McCain won all of the 20 counties except for the two based in Morgantown and Fairmont. He carried the district 57%-42%.
Rep. Alan Mollohan (D)
Elected: 1982, 14th term.
Born: May 14, 1943, Fairmont .
Education: Col. of William & Mary, A.B. 1966, WV U., J.D. 1970.
Family: Married (Barbara); 5 children.
Military career: Army, 1970, Army Reserves, 1970–83.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1970–82.
The congressman from the 1st District is Alan Mollohan, a Democrat first elected in 1982. His father, Robert Mollohan, was elected to Congress in 1952 and 1954, ran for governor and lost in 1956, and then won back the House seat a dozen years later when his Republican successor, Arch Moore, was elected governor. Alan Mollohan was born in Fairmont while his father served as superintendent of the State Industrial School for Boys. He grew up in West Virginia and Washington, D.C., and graduated from William and Mary and West Virginia University’s law school. He was working in Washington as a lawyer for Consolidated Coal, among other clients, when his father retired in 1982. He returned home and promptly won the seat. His one major challenge came in the 1992 primary, when he was redistricted into a district with another incumbent, Democrat Harley Staggers Jr., also the son of a congressman and an ally of the National Rifle Association. Mollohan, who had represented more of the new district than Staggers, won 62%-38%.
|Alan Mollohan (D)||187,734||(100%)||($793,612)|
|Alan Mollohan (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (68%), 2002 (100%), 2000 (88%), 1998 (85%), 1996 (100%), 1994 (70%), 1992 (100%), 1990 (67%), 1988 (75%), 1986 (100%), 1984 (54%), 1982 (53%)
Mollohan’s voting record has become increasingly centrist, and he has concentrated on bringing projects to the district while keeping a low profile on Capitol Hill. He got a seat on the Appropriations Committee in 1986 and today is chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. On Appropriations, many members earmark projects for their districts, a practice that became increasingly common—and controversial, as budget hawks in both parties have zeroed in on earmarks as wasteful spending. Mollohan’s earmarks in particular have come under scrutiny and caused him increasing discomfort politically.
He long has had a strategy of encouraging the creation of non-profit organizations, many led by former staffers and close friends, through which he has funneled money into northern West Virginia. The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste reported that Mollohan brought $480 million to the district between 1995 and 2006, more than half of it going to those five nonprofits: the Institute for Scientific Research, the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, the MountainMade Foundation and the Canaan Valley Institute. Mollohan argues that these nonprofits have created thousands of jobs in West Virginia, including high-tech jobs for 200 firms along the Interstate 79 corridor from Morgantown to Weston.
But in April 2006, the conservative National Legal and Policy Center charged that Mollohan had failed to disclose all of his assets and issued a 500-page report that listed some 250 alleged misrepresentations and omissions. As amplified in a Wall Street Journal article, Mollohan had made real estate investments with nonprofit officials who were former staffers or contributors that boosted his assets from $565,000 in 2000 to at least $6 million in 2004. The newspaper also reported that Mollohan bought a farm on the Cheat River in Tucker County with the head of a defense contracting firm that had obtained a contract funded by a Mollohan earmark. Mollohan said the two were old friends. In June 2006, Mollohan filed a revised personal disclosure statement, correcting 19 “unintentional” errors. Federal prosecutors began investigating his finances, the Journal reported. But Mollohan said that he had not been questioned and that he had profited from rapidly rising real estate properties in Washington and in North Carolina. In April 2006, under pressure from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, he resigned as ranking minority member on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which enforces House ethics rules.
Mollohan had served on the panel during some of its most difficult days in the Republican majority. In 2004, the bipartisan committee unanimously voted to admonish—the weakest rebuke possible—House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for offenses related to his close ties to lobbyists who wanted favors from him. Although Mollohan kept his customary low profile, he faced a no-win situation. Republicans complained he was sharing sensitive information with Democratic leaders, and Democrats were unhappy that DeLay had not been more harshly punished. Along with Republican Chairman Joel Hefley of Colorado, Mollohan defended the committee’s work and criticized “erroneous” press reports. Then, GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert, angry that DeLay had been admonished at all, dumped Hefley as chairman and replaced him with a presumably more compliant Republican chairman, Doc Hastings of Washington state. Republican leaders also tried to change the ethics rules in the aftermath of the DeLay case to make it harder to open an investigation against a member. Mollohan resisted, and the committee largely ceased to function until the GOP leaders backed off and reverted to the old, more stringent rules.
On national issues, Mollohan voted against the war in Iraq and strongly opposed the initial Bush tax cuts. He supported Bush’s steel import restrictions in 2002 as a vital step against unfair competition from foreign steelmakers, but he protested when the administration subsequently granted a series of waivers in response to pressure from domestic steel users complaining about price increases. He has fought successfully to continue loan guarantees for steel companies, which has helped to keep Weirton Steel alive despite its financial troubles. In 2007, he opposed a program backed by the Bush administration to allow trucks from Mexican companies to operate in the United States.
Mollohan generally has had easy re-election contests. In 2004, against his first Republican opponent since 1994, he won 68% of the vote. In 2006, after the Wall Street Journal story broke and Mollohan resigned from the ethics committee, national Republicans made a major effort on behalf of the Republican candidate, Wheeling Delegate Chris Wakim. But Wakim was hurt by charges that he had overstated his military record, claiming to be a disabled Gulf War veteran when he served stateside. Mollohan won 64%-36%, carrying all but Grant County and Doddridge County. Despite attacks from national Republicans in 2007 focused on his earmarks and personal finances, Mollohan was unopposed in 2008.