This article originally provided by The Register-Herald

February 23, 2005

Caputo offers bill to provide funds for campaigning


CHARLESTON - Hoping to level the playing field so poorer candidates can compete with well heeled ones, the so-called Clean Elections Act would test public financing in a pilot project.

Offered Tuesday, the bill would create a pool of cash to finance campaigns in three single-delegate House districts and two Senate districts.

For example, a House candidate would draw $7,500 from the fund.

In return, anyone getting public money couldn't accept private donations, so one plus at the outset is that the participating candidate isn't obligated to special interests, Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, a co-sponsor, explained.

"Then, if your opponent chooses not to take that route and outspends you, you can get up to 200 percent more of that money to run your campaign," Caputo said.

"I think it's a good start. It's worked in some states like Vermont, Maine and Arizona. It's gotten a lot of people involved in the process that wouldn't have been involved before."


Caputo is sponsoring the bill along with House Judiciary Chairman Jon Amores, D-Kanawha, and Delegates John Doyle, D-Jefferson, and Don Perdue, D-Wayne.

One distinct advantage is that a candidate doesn't have to deal with the distraction of raising campaign money.

"The toughest thing about your first campaign is realizing how much it costs and how you're going to fund it," Caputo said.

"Special interests start giving you money. Then you kind of feel obligated to those interests."


Rather than a "full-blown" financing law, Caputo said it limits eligible seats to those that are open.

"If a member of a single-delegate district is not running, then the elections commission would choose to participate in that," the delegate said.

"Or the incumbent, if he so desires, can volunteer his or her district to do that. It's got a long way to go, don't get me wrong. But I think it's something we need to look at. I really do. A lot of private money is being poured into campaigns. It's tough for an individual to run with that kind of money."


The bill doesn't specify which House or Senate districts would be in the test pilot.

If 10 incumbents in single-delegate districts decided not to run, and only three are to be tested under the bill, the elections commission would choose them by lot, or drawing names from a hat, Caputo said.

"It will level the playing field," he said.

"It will give an individual a chance to run a good, clean election and not have to worry about chasing the dollars. It will put him or her, regardless of political experience, on a level playing field and give him a good, honest-to-goodness chance of doing something they believe in."

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If he were in a single-delegate district, Caputo said he would gladly take part.

In his district, however, as many as 14 people have vied for seats.

"It would be very tough if everyone elected to participate in that," he said. "In most single-delegate districts, usually there are not that many people running. But I would do it in a heartbeat."

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Voter-Owned Elections

Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246