This article originally provided by The Register-Herald

February 8, 2005

Panel wants $1,000 limit for contributions to 527s

By Mannix Porterfield/Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON -- Don Blankenship's mega-bucks financing of a "grudge match" against former Justice Warren McGraw in last year's heated Supreme Court battle led a committee Monday to approve a limit on donations to so-called 527 campaign units.

More than $2 million was poured by the Massey Energy chief executive officer into a group known as And For the Sake of The Kids to defeat the Democratic justice.

That led a special legislative committee to begin focusing on 527s, so named after the number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service to tax-exempt organizations.

Under a proposed law advanced by Select Committee F on Campaign Finance Reform, individual donations to 527s would be restricted to $1,000 per election.

McGraw became the target of the Blankenship-juiced 527 over the high court's controversial 3-2 ruling that revived probation for convicted sex offender Tony Dean Arbaugh.

Ultimately, the justice lost to Republican challenger Brent Benjamin, after the state was blanketed with TV ads and billboards zeroing in on the Arbaugh decision.

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said Blankenship's role in the Supreme Court battle inspired the legislation.

"It's just not fair that one individual who has a lot more money to just throw it at one candidate for whatever reason," he said.

And for The Sake of The Kids left the impression it reflected a groundswell of public thought, "when basically it was just two or three contributors," Caputo said afterward.

"It's pretty deceiving to the public," he said.

"The public really needs to know who's behind these types of committees and contributions should be limited."

The bill had specified a $2,000 limit per two-year election cycle, but Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia, amended it so that only $1,000 could be spent per election.

However, the requirement doesn't apply if such groups are buying media time and space, or using mass mailings, to merely advocate a position on a public issue, including constitutional amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, agreed the measure is needed to check the flow of massive amounts of money into the so-called 527 groups in the wake of the McGraw-Benjamin race.

"It was a pretty bloody election," he said.

Another provision calls for reporting within 24 hours of each disclosure date any amount over $10,000 to produce and air election messages.

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