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DOJ sues companies owned by West Virginia governor's family over unpaid fines

Jim Justice accused the Biden Administration of playing politics after he announced he is running for the Senate.

Governor Jim Justice spoke on the steps of the Capitol.

Jim Justice / Wikimedia Commons.

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen businesses owned by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s family shortly after the Republican launched his Senate campaign.

The government agency explained that the lawsuit involves Governor James Justice’s son and 13 coal companies he owns or operates for allegedly violating federal law by failing to pay fines related to mining operations.

“Over a five-year period, defendants engaged in over 130 violations of federal law, thereby posing health and safety risks to the public and the environment,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia Christopher R. Kavanaugh.

According to the DOJ, the defendants’ debt is approximately $7.6 million, a total amount for penalties, interest and administrative expenses.

A politically motivated attack?

This Wednesday, the governor said in a briefing that, although he did not know the details of the indictment, the Justice Department’s action appears to be politically motivated against him.

“I’ve announced as a Republican that I’m running for the U.S. Senate, and the Biden administration is aware of the fact that with a win for the U.S. Senate and everything, we could very well flip the Senate. This could be something in regard to that,” he said.

Roman Stauffer, Justice’s campaign manager, agreed with the governor’s opinion and emphasized that “the Democrats have seen the polls that show Jim Justice winning this race, and they’re panicking. So now the Biden Justice Department has decided to play politics,” he said.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Tate Mitchell gave a similar view after learning the news. “Joe Biden’s Department of Justice has gone totally rogue. Democrats weaponizing the federal government to attack the family of a Republican Senate candidate is a complete abuse of power,” he said.

It should be recalled that Democrats hold a slim majority in the upper chamber, 51-49, but Republicans are hoping to regain the seat currently held by Democrat Joe Manchin, and polls suggest that Justice could be the one to win it. According to an East Carolina University poll, the governor is leading Manchin by 22 points in the Senate race.