This article originally provided by The Williamson Daily News

November 6, 2006

Blankenship's money key in statehouse races

Associated Press Writer

The wealthy president, chairman and CEO has spread nearly $100,000 among 60 candidates running for both the House and Senate. Following his lead, a relative handful of Blankenship associates - current and former Massey employees, suppliers and family members - have kicked in an additional $165,200 to these anointed candidates.

For 15 of Blankenship's candidates, these contributions account for at least half of their funds. It represents three-fourths or more of the money raised by six of them.

But the direct contributions pale next to the statewide advertising campaign that Blankenship has bankrolled to wrest control of the 100-seat House of Delegates from the Democrats.

As of Thursday, Blankenship had poured $2.03 million into his independent campaign that attacks 40 incumbent lawmakers while urging voters to support 41 GOP candidates.

Validating a rumor from when Blankenship first vowed to take on legislators, this spending so far equals $50,845 for each Democrat targeted. He has devoted an average of $72,636 to each of the 28 House districts statewide he seeks to influence.

Blankenship had spent nearly half these funds between Oct. 25 and Thursday, with more likely by Tuesday. Of the 41 Republicans aided by his ‘‘And For The Sake Of The Kids'' campaign, only four are incumbents.

Filed with the Secretary of State's office, Blankenship's reports list such ‘‘electioneering communications'' as television and radio ads, billboards, yard signs, T-shirts, mailed fliers and polling. The total to date does not include fees paid to Greg Thomas, the Republican lobbyist and consultant overseeing Blankenship's effort.

While perhaps unprecedented in West Virginia, Blankenship is not the only multimillionaire trying influence a state's legislative races this year.

In Michigan, Democrat Jon Stryker has given $4.6 million to a political action committee targeting Republican incumbents with negative ads and campaign literature.

Stryker's sister, Pat, helped bankroll a similar effort in 2004 that helped Democrats take back both the Colorado House and Senate for the first time in 42 years.

In West Virginia, other individuals and groups have also mounted independent campaigns and electioneering communications this year. They include five labor organizations. But Blankenship's spending represents 95 percent of the total.

Blankenship also remains the largest individual donor to legislative candidates, but several other special interests have given heavily this year:

- Labor PACS have contributed more than $383,000.

- Trial lawyers have provided more than $338,000, including at least $73,000 from their PAC.

- Gambling and racetrack interests have given more than $155,000.

Other major individual donors include nursing home operator Calvin Sutphin and his wife, who have contributed more than $39,000, and Charleston accountant Lawrence Pack and his wife, who have given more than $46,000.

These contributors have helped legislative candidates amass more than $7 million to date, including $1.7 million during the pre-general election filing period.

They spent $1.5 million during that period, bringing the election cycle spending total to $5.1 million.

The 4th Senate District race pitting Delegate Mike Hall, R-Putnam, against Democrat Jim Lees saw the most money raised and spent among Senate candidates. The two collected $66,803 and expended $73,135 during the filing period. Hall edged out Lees in fundraising and had $18,176 on hand as of Oct. 20, compared to Lees' $581.96. The two vie to succeed a retiring Republican.

The most active House race for fundraising during the reporting period was in the two-seat 3rd District representing Ohio County. Incumbent Delegate Gil White and fellow Republican Scott Reed are squaring off against Democrats Orphy Klempa and Tal Hutchins, a former lawmaker. Nearly $78,000 was raised by the candidates during the filing period, with more than $92,000 spent.

The most successful fundraiser among House candidates during the filing period was Democrat Doug Reynolds, running in Cabell County's 16th District. He collected $37,800. Hall led the field of Senate candidates, raising $46,870 of that race's total.

The filing period's biggest spenders were Sen. Jesse Guills, R-Greenbrier, who shed $41,552, and Delegate Sharon Spencer, D-Kanawha, who spent $34,242 in the 30th District.

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