A national shortage of new vehicles has apparently led the West Virginia governor’s office to find enough luxury pickups to be given out as vaccination incentive prizes in Governor Jim Justice’s sweepstakes, based on a response to a request from the Freedom of Information Act upon a list of vendors and expenses for the trucks and firearms are given out as weekly prices.
In response, the governor’s office issued invoices for six vehicles purchased from four dealers between June 8 and 29. All six are models of the year 2021.
With the state giving away two pickups a week for each of the seven weekly prize draws through August 4, the governor’s office has purchased fewer than half of the vehicles required for the raffle.
The governor’s office also appears to be buying all of the luxury pickups available from state dealerships, with purchases of three Ford F-150s, two Chevrolet Silverados, and a GMC Sierra priced between $ 62,693 and $ 81,433.
The judiciary previously said that more than $ 10 million in funding for the sweepstakes prizes came from unused federal funds for the CARES Act pandemic recovery.
“It’s taxpayer dollars, but it comes from the federal government. It doesn’t come out of our pockets in West Virginia, ”Justice said of the cost of the raffle.
He has refused to cancel the remaining weeks of the sweepstakes despite not achieving his goal of hesitating the vaccine to get his vaccinations, with state vaccination rates dropping to new lows each week.
“You could say, well, they are not particularly successful,” Justice said when initially asked about the prospect of the contest being canceled. “To be honest, if we get an additional 500, 1,000, an additional 20,000 [doses]how many lives have we saved? How much money, how many hospital stays? We have to try everything that is available to us. “
Vehicle purchases by date include:
| Two F-150s purchased from Thornhill Ford Lincoln of Chapmanville on June 8, priced at $ 72,160 and $ 68,630, respectively.
| A Silverado from the Thornhill Superstore in Chapmanville bought for $ 66,397 on June 12 at a discount of $ 3,000.
| An F-150 from Moses Ford in St. Albans was purchased on June 17 for $ 81,433.
| A Silverado and a Sierra purchased June 29 from Weimer Chevrolet Buick of Moorefield. The Silverado was priced at $ 62,693 with a $ 2,000 discount and the Sierra was priced at $ 67,714 with a $ 3,000 discount.
The governor’s office declined to issue invoices for the purchase of firearms, citing a privacy provision in state FOIA law, 29B-1-4 (a) -2, a provision normally applied to surrender exclude from personnel files or medical files.
The code quote, part of a list of information exempted from FOIA law, states: “Information of a personal nature such as is kept in personal, medical or similar files when its public disclosure would constitute an improper invasion of privacy . ”
Justice is giving away five rifles and five shotguns as competition prizes every week.
Wally Thornhill, owner of Thornhill dealers, made the maximum contribution of $ 5,600 to Justice’s re-election campaign in 2020, while members of the Moses family donated a total of $ 19,600, according to the campaign’s financial disclosures.
In the 2020 campaign, Justice received a total of $ 35,800 in campaign donations from people who identified themselves as being in the automotive industry, according to the Vote Smart website.
State auto dealerships and their families also made up the bulk of the contributors to a justice fundraiser held at the Appalachian Power Park on September 16, 2020, according to financial data.
These included 21 dealerships, including representatives from the Bill Cole Automotive Group.
Cole, a major Republican fundraiser, former Senate President, and Republican candidate for governor, made a maximum of $ 2,800 general election cycle contribution to the event, as did five family members, according to the campaign disclosure.
The event raised $ 145,500 for the justice campaign.
Cole was also active in the Justice PR campaign, staged during the 2021 Legislature’s regular session, to gain support for his proposal to cut state income taxes and shift the tax burden to sales and other consumption taxes. The proposal died 100: 0 unanimously in the House of Representatives.
On Wednesday, Cole and Justice Heather Coburn of Princeton, a longtime employee of the Bill Cole Auto Mall in Bluefield, presented a sweepstakes check for $ 1 million. The check was handed over at the car dealership.