This article originally provided by
Note: WV Citizens for Clean Elections was instrumental
in passage of the 527 law mentioned in this story.
December 17, 2006
Blankenship's spending rivaled House,
exceeded Senate field
By LAWRENCE MESSINA
Associated Press Writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Massey Energy chief Don
Blankenship reported pouring $3.7 million into his unsuccessful bid to influence
this year's legislative races - spending more than the entire field of 45 Senate
candidates, and nearly as much as the more than 240 people who ran for the
Racetrack and other gambling interests were among those
more successful than the coal company president, CEO and chairman. The latest
campaign finance reports posted by the Secretary of State's office show they
supported 71 winning candidates by devoting at least $352,000 into House and
Senate contests. Just over half that sum was contributed in the final weeks
before the general election.
They seek full-blown casinos at the state's four
racetracks, or benefit from the state lottery system's video poker machines.
Tobacco interests also stepped up their campaign giving
just before Nov. 7. They distributed nearly two-thirds of their more than
$25,000 in donations during that time. The West Virginia Tax Modernization
Project, which issued its report one week before the election, recommended the
state increase its cigarette and tobacco-related taxes.
The entire-100 member House and 17 of 34 Senate seats were
on the ballot this year. In both chambers, Democrats increased majorities held
since the 1930s. They upped their roster of delegates from 68 to 72 and went
from 21 to 23 Senate seats.
Based on available reports - post-general filings were due
Dec. 8 - Senate candidates together spent more than $2.8 million. About $1
million of that came from candidates who lost in the May primary. Those who
survived until the general spent an average of about $64,500.
The large field of House candidates spent $3.8 million,
though all but about $220,000 was spent by primary winners. Seeking seats spread
across 58 districts, the House candidates who reached the general election spent
an average of about $20,300.
The most expensive general election race for the Senate
appears to have been the 4th District matchup between former Delegate Mike Hall
and lawyer Jim Lees. Hall, R-Putnam, spent only about $66,000 to Lees' $100,000
but bested his Democrat rival for the open seat.
After a pricey primary, the general election race in the
3rd Delegate District emerged as the year's most expensive for the House. Ohio
County Democrats Tal Hutchins and Orphy Klempa defeated GOP rivals in a contest
where spending averaged at least $94,500 per seat. A final report from
Republican Delegate Gil White, unseated in that race, is not yet posted.
Greyhound breeder Mike Green, who knocked off Sen. Russ
Weeks, R-Raleigh, spent the most of any legislative candidate this year,
including heavy spending during the primary: $320,716. Incoming Delegate Doug
Reynolds, D-Cabell, led the pack of House candidates, spending $187,000.
Blankenship, meanwhile, devoted $3.6 million from his
personal wealth on an independent political campaign that urged support for 45
specific GOP House candidates while attacking 42 of their Democratic opponents
by name, his reports said. He reported spending $1.58 million of that between
Oct. 21 and Nov. 17.
But that post-general report appears to include nearly
$900,000 in spending previously disclosed in earlier reports. The total on the
report's cover page also fails to reflect about $425,000 in spending detailed
within the report. Blankenship and his campaign's key staffers, Greg Thomas and
Rob Cornelius, did not respond to messages last week questioning the report.
Only one of the Democratic incumbents targeted by
Blankenship's "And For The Sake Of The Kids" campaign, Delegate Margarette Leach
of Cabell County, lost in November. The 80-year-old had been placed at a nursing
home several weeks before the election. The 39 Blankenship-backed candidates who
lost included four Republican incumbents.
Besides his independent advertising campaign, Blankenship
also contributed at least $104,500 directly to legislative candidates over the
course of the election cycle. Massey's political action committee and other
company executives gave another $50,050. The GOP candidates supported by the
independent expenditures also received at least $121,900 from Massey vendors and
Besides gambling and tobacco interests, other special
interests also became major campaign contributors this year:
- An array of labor PACs together gave at least $413,250;
- Trial lawyers and their PAC distributed at least
- Banking-related PACs gave at least $78,000;
- Insurance-related PACs contributed at least $63,000.
Lawrence Messina covers the statehouse for The Associated