Editorials, Opinion

LIV event ‘great’ for W.Va. or for Justice?

Gov. Jim Justice seems to have had a grand ol’ time at the LIV Golf tournament when it came to the Greenbrier in early August. “I thought the event was great,” he said during a news briefing, “and I thought the event was great for West Virginia.”

Many people are taking issue with the fact that an active candidate for U.S. Senate hosted an event for an organization that is directly funded by the Saudi Arabian government (which isn’t exactly known for its stellar human rights record) and may or may not have spoken with important Saudi officials. And if Justice were to win a Senate seat, he’d be voting on issues that impact the same people who run LIV Golf.

What we take issue with is Justice’s statement that it was “great for West Virginia.”

It was undoubtably great for Justice’s business — and probably his campaign — but it doesn’t look like many others benefited from the event.

According to Greenbrier County resident and former state senator Stephen Baldwin, there were no local vendors at the tournament — rather, “LIV brought in their own vendors from overseas” — and LIV bought out the hotel but only used roughly half the rooms. The latter may have contributed to the decreased number of volunteers and spectators this year.

Having the hotel bought out for the weekend guaranteed Justice’s resort made bank on the event, but freezing out local vendors means the cash flow stopped within the Greenbrier’s gates. That’s not “great for West Virginia.” (And being party to Saudi Arabia’s “sportswashing” isn’t good for the state’s image, either.)

Now, Justice will probably object to us calling the Greenbrier “his” resort. Supposedly, Justice has handed the day-to-day running of his business interests over to his son Jay and his daughter Jill. But his refusal to let go completely means that no one can know for sure.

After all, Justice’s finances are “broad and very complex,” in the words of Justice’s campaign manager — which was the reason given for Justice’s campaign being more than 100 days past the Senate financial disclosure deadline. A deadline that has been extended at least once since May and that Justice missed again on Aug. 24.

Of course, the governor’s finances would be significantly less complicated if he had put his companies — including the Greenbrier — in a blind trust like he should have years ago when he first ran for office. We imagine that would have also made it harder for people to claim Justice-the-candidate is unfairly profiting from or leveraging his businesses for political gain.

It was one thing for Justice to stubbornly hold on to his corporate interests when it seemed he would serve his time as governor and go back to being a businessman. But now that it’s clear Justice plans to launch a career in politics, he needs to sever those ties and put his companies and holdings in a blind trust. Otherwise, how can we trust him to do what’s best for West Virginia instead of what’s best for him?