This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

February 9, 2007

Campaign financing advances in W.Va. Senate

By Tom Searls
Staff writer

Legislation to create public financing for legislative campaigns was recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The bill (SB118) allows candidates to voluntarily receive public funding to run their campaigns and is based on laws in Maine and Arizona.

Candidates would have to pledge to not spend their own or outside special-interest money and start by raising “seed money” from a large number of people to qualify for public financing.

State Treasurer John Perdue has pledged $1 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Division for the fund and state residents would be able to donate $3 to the cause through an income tax check-off.

If an opponent takes special- interest money, or spends their own, the candidate participating in the program would be allowed more funding.

Ben Beakes, administrative assistant to Secretary of State Betty Ireland, said his office would have no problem operating the program, although it would take more employees. The only objection he had was to change the chief body administering the fund from the state Election Commission to a person in his office.

Beakes said it would be “very difficult” for the commission “to meet every single day,” as the legislation would require in the last 10 days of a campaign.

Sen. Frank Deem, R-Wood, argued against the legislation, demanding to know how much money the tax check-off would raise. But proponents said that’s impossible to know until the check-off is offered to taxpayers.

Deem called the proposal a “liberal, socialist view,” but a quick call for a vote left him and other opponents without chances to offer amendments.

The bill would be permissive in that if not enough money is raised to finance the campaigns, then it would not go into effect.

To contact staff writer Tom Searls, use e-mail or call 348-5198.


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