This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

September 20, 2006

Group targets Mingo delegate

White questions source of support for foundation

By Scott Finn
Staff writer

A Mingo County delegate says a conservative group’s flier targeting his record could be the start of a statewide campaign to oust Democrats from the House of Delegates.

The flier’s target, Delegate Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, said the information distorts his voting record. The flier says that similar information is being distributed all over the state.

The West Virginia Family Foundation put out a “voter guide” comparing White to his Republican competitor on a variety of hot-button social issues, such as gay marriage, abortion and gambling.

White said the foundation hired people to deliver the mailing door-to-door over the past week.

Before now, the West Virginia Family Foundation has never had more than $25,000 in its accounts, according to, a Web site that tracks nonprofit organizations.

White speculated that the money for the workers and the flier comes from Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who has pledged to spend up to $6 million to help Republicans take over the House of Delegates.

White noted that the issues being raised by Blankenship and by the foundation are identical.

“What they’re doing, and I can’t verify this, is that Blankenship is hiding behind the West Virginia Family Foundation,” White said.

Blankenship’s campaign consultant, Greg Thomas, did not immediately return two phone calls and an e-mail asking for comment.

West Virginia Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose president is listed as Kevin McCoy, a postal worker from Elkview.

McCoy did not return a phone call and an e-mail seeking comment. The group’s chairman, Ray Lambert, referred all questions to McCoy. Lambert owns American Airworks in Sofia, a company that sells breathing equipment to rescue workers and the mining industry, according to its Web site.

In a Sunday article, Blankenship told the Martinsburg Journal that he’ll spend “$1 million to $2 million individually, and a total of $5 million to $6 million on the 2006 election through other organizations.”

When Blankenship spends money himself, he must report it to the secretary of state’s office.

But nonprofit organizations do not have to report the donors who contribute to them. And under current state law, they are exempt from having to report their spending on political races as long as they do not expressly say “vote for” or “vote against” a candidate, according to secretary of state spokesman Ben Beakes.

Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said the foundation appears to be skirting the law. The Legislature intended to require full disclosure of all election-related spending when it passed reform legislation last year, he said.

“If it’s not improper, it’s right on the edge,” Kessler said. “It was the intent of the Legislature to require reporting on all election spending.”

The flier centers on a series of “discharge motions” that White and most other Democrats voted against. These Republican-sponsored motions, which are rare, would have allowed bills to skip going through House committees and brought them straight to the floor for a vote.

White said he supported many of the bills, but he refused to vote to discharge them out of committees because it would create chaos in the Legislature.

“Anybody who uses those discharge votes in this way is either outright lying or doesn’t understand the legislative process,” White said.

For example, the flier says that White voted against a bill that “supports making it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion on an underage girl without her parents knowing.”

White called that characterization entirely false. He said he would have supported the parental notification bill if it had come before him. But he refused to vote to bring it out of committee out of respect for the legislative process, he said.

Also, it already is illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion on an underage girl without notifying her parents, he said.

There are two ways for the girl to get around this requirement — receive permission from a judge or a second doctor who is not the one performing an abortion. The bill in question would have taken away the doctor’s exception, leaving only the judicial option.

White has been endorsed by West Virginians for Life with a 93 percent voting record, according to WVFL legislative director Melissa Adkins.

Adkins declined to answer questions about whether her group also is receiving Blankenship money.

“We generally don’t discuss our donors beyond what is required for us to disclose publicly,” Adkins said. “It puts us in a difficult position. We do not disclose private information about our members ...

“We haven’t said a lot publicly about our strategy, and we’re not going to,” she said.

The West Virginia Family Foundation is a chapter of the American Family Association. The group drafted the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, as well as civil unions and other types of domestic partnerships, according to its Web site.

The foundation is promising to make itself heard not just through its voter guides, but through radio and television commercials as well, according to its Web site.

The foundation also has a separate political action committee, but the fliers are not listed as being paid for by that committee. Instead, they were paid for by “West Virginia Family Foundation Inc.”

Donors of $1,000 each to the political action committee include Blankenship, Thomas, Lambert, Robert Samples of RMS Strategies, and George and Ramona Blankenship of Williamson. One other contributor is listed, Burton Ervin, who gave $100.

To contact staff writer Scott Finn, use e-mail or call 357-4323.


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