This article originally provided by The Herald-Dispatch

February 24, 2006

Public financing of campaigns bill appears dead

The Associated Press

CHARLESTON -- A bill that would allow publicly funded legislative campaigns is effectively dead because it will not make it out of the Senate Finance Committee this year, the chairman said Thursday.

"I think next year is the year that campaign finance will be looked at very strongly," said Sen. Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas.

The bill was on the committee's agenda so Todd Lang, executive director of the Citizens Clean Election Commission in Arizona, could describe how public financing of campaigns works in that state.

Helmick said that presentation was informative and may have answered many critic's questions.

But, he said, "This is a piece of legislation that is futuristic as far as West Virginia is concerned."

The bill (SB124) would allow legislative candidates to receive campaign money from a new public fund if they agree not to spend their own money. Candidates could accept only a small amount of private donations needed to qualify and seed money to "test the waters" before launching a campaign.

The voluntary system was endorsed by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

This is the fourth year the Senate has considered the measure. Previous bills have all died in Helmick's committee without it ever being discussed.

"If it's dead we'll come back next year," said Julie Archer of Citizens for Clean Elections, a West Virginia group that supports the bill. "We always approached it as kind of a long-term thing."

A similar measure (HB4251) is pending in the House Judiciary Committee. It was not clear Thursday whether that committee would discuss it.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell in December signed legislation that establishes a voluntary publicly funded election system in that state. Connecticut's Legislature is the first to pass such legislation for all statewide and legislative offices.

Maine, Vermont and Arizona have measures enacted by ballot initiative, although Vermont's applies only to statewide offices. North Carolina has a system that applies to judicial races. New Mexico has publicly funded campaigns for a business regulatory commission. And New Jersey has a pilot project for two legislative districts, according to Public Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C.


Voter-Owned Elections

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