The companies have denied any wrongdoing.
The dispute has led to accusations that Cuccinelli, who has stressed his advocacy for the plight of coal workers, has sided with energy companies at the expense of southwest Virginians. And it has given McAuliffe an opening to attract support in a part of the state that has voted heavily Republican in recent years, in part because of the Obama administration’s environmental policies.
“The Virginia Inspector General confirmed today what Virginians have found troubling for months — that Ken Cuccinelli’s office had stepped over the line and improperly used taxpayer funds to advise out-of-state energy companies trying to avoid paying Southwest Virginia landowners mining royalties that are rightfully theirs,” McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said in a written statement. Schwerin called on Cuccinelli to return campaign contributions from one of the energy companies.
Brian Gottstein, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the report vindicates Cuccinelli.
“The inspector general’s report proves what we have said from the beginning: Attorney General Cuccinelli had no prior knowledge of the content of these emails and he did not authorize them,” Gottstein said in a written statement. “The innuendo and outright accusations by some that the attorney general was working against landowners have been proven to be patently false.”
Gottstein said Pigeon was ordered to have no further contact with the energy companies as soon as Cuccinelli learned of the collaboration — an order that was expanded last month to remove her from the case altogether.
The inspector general opened the investigation after news reports that a U.S. magistrate had expressed shock that Pigeon was assisting the energy companies. State Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) also called for an independent examination. Puckett said at the time that he was troubled because Consol Energy has contributed more than $111,000 to Cuccinelli’s gubernatorial campaign.
Morehart served as special agent in charge of the FBI’s Richmond field office before Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) appointed him to lead the newly created inspector general’s office.
Jennifer B. Jenkins contributed to this report.