This article originally provided by The Beckley Register-Herald

August 20, 2005


Reform of law would level election playing field

Marion County Delegate Mike Caputo has a dream in which he sees the West Virginia Legislature leveling the playing field in future elections.

That leveling would come in the guise of reform of the 527s, groups that can target issues or people on the ballot and are so-named by the number assigned them by the Internal Revenue Service.

The issue has surged to the forefront because of the millions pumped by Massey Energy CEO and President Don Blankenship in the 2004 state Supreme Court race and the more recent $5 billion bond amendment.

Many credit a 527 group, "And For The Sake of The Kids," financed largely by Blankenship in aid of the campaign of Republican upstart Brent Benjamin's upset of incumbent Warren McGraw. Ads financed by the group targeted McGraw for the Supreme Court's 3-2 decision, with McGraw among the majority, to reinstate probation for a convicted child rapist.

Naturally, Blankenship finds fault with any call for reform, labeling it an attempt by politicians to mask their records from the public.

We're with Caputo on this one.

As he told The Register-Herald, Caputo thinks it is wrong in a effort get whomever he or she wants to see in office by hiding behind a bogus name or group to make people think there is a groundswell of people that are trying to protect children.

We agree with his reasoning.

By limiting contributions to 527s to a fair amount, a group that is legitimate and does have that groundswell of support should still be able to make the difference it hopes to see.

The way the law is currently written, there may be only one or two major contributors. Because they do not have to identify themselves, it misleads the public.

This is our sticking point with 527s - a handful of contributors can hide behind the anonymity of their setup, thereby leading the voting public to believe there are thousands who stand behind the issue.

This is not a partisan issue. Any person, Democrat, Republican or in the middle, who believes strongly enough to spend megabucks to put their opinion out there, should have to identify himself or herself for that cause.

Nor should Blankenship believe reforms are directed solely at him. His recent involvement has served only as the catalyst for a matter that should have been foreseen when the law was written.

We encourage Caputo and his fellow legislators to continue their efforts to reform 527s.

Voter-Owned Elections

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