Shades of Politics

A casual observer of the guest list for Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV’s West Virginia Transportation and Infrastructure Summit today might be forgiven for believing only one member of the state’s congressional delegation serves on the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will welcome fellow senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., in addition to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, also a Democrat, under the pretense of discussing “the history and successes of West Virginia’s airports and the future needs of the state’s aviation and transportation infrastructure at large.”

It is true, Rahall is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. So is Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

It begs the question, if a “summit” is so important it requires the presence of three-fifths of a state’s congressional delegation and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, why leave out the other two – particularly when one of the uninvited is a member of the committee that oversees such matters?

In an election year, the answer is rather clear. Neither Capito nor Congressman David McKinley, R-W.Va. – whose district includes several of the state’s larger airports, has the correct party affiliation to get past Rockefeller’s velvet rope, and he knows Capito is running for the seat he will soon vacate, but he is forced to back her opponent.

Campaign season is ramping up, and blatant campaign appearances are to be expected. Surely, though, Rockefeller could do better than to try to disguise such stumping as a very important discussion of the history of West Virginia’s airports, or the need to “invest in American transportation for the long term.”

Again, if Rockefeller’s desire was truly to address the “potential impact on West Virginia if the Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent,” it seems as though Capito and McKinley should have been an important part of that discussion.