This article originally provided by The Herald-Dispatch

February 28, 2007

Campaign funding issue gaining support, says group

By ROGER ADKINS, Staff Writer

PARKERSBURG — Support for the effort to reduce campaigns funded by special interest groups is growing, the state’s main advocate for the cause said Monday.

The League of Women Voters of Wood County viewed a presentation Monday by Carol Warren, a lobbyist for the West Virginia Public Campaign Financing Act. A video titled "Clean Elections: Changing the Face of America" was part of the presentation. The video described how public campaign financing has worked in the seven states and two cities in the U.S. that have adopted it.

The legislation would create an alternative public financing option for candidates seeking election to the state Senate and House of Delegates. The system is voluntary and candidates who participate agree to abide by contribution and spending limits, she said.

Warren is diocesan director of the Justice and Life Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and co-chair of the West Virginia Council of Churches’ Peace and Justice/Government Concerns Program.

The campaign financing act was effectively killed Monday when it did not appear on the Senate Finance Committee’s agenda, Warren said. Monday was the last day a bill could emerge from committee with enough time to be viewed and put to vote on the House and Senate floors.

Although the legislation likely won’t go through during the current session, it won’t be going away anytime soon, Warren said. The coalition of organizations supporting the campaign reform bill is growing, she said.

"We’re not going away," Warren said. "We’ve been working on this for eight years now. I think we’re beginning to be the coalition we need to be in order to move this forward. We need coalition members to get to the people in their groups and get them informed. We need to let people know this is going to be back next year."

The state League of Women Voters is a member of the coalition.

Many politicians in West Virginia are backed by special interest groups that donate money to their campaigns, Warren said. As a result, politicians may feel pressure to pass laws that would benefit businesses and organizations that helped finance their campaign, she said.

"They sort of expect to get something back for that," she said.

Public campaign financing would level the playing field. Candidates wouldn’t have to be wealthy or receive funds from special interest groups to run a viable campaign, Warren said. The proposed bill would provide state funds for candidates who garner enough support in their districts.

The amount candidates receive would depend on the size of the district in which they are running. In exchange for the funds, candidates would not be permitted to accept funds from outside sources or use personal money for their campaigns, she said.

"Imagine, if you will, a Legislature made up of people who are really accountable to the voters," Warren said. "If you’ve spent any time with our Legislature, you know that sounds kind of crazy. A lot of things happen that don’t seem to be the choices the public would make. I have to say there are legislators who are wonderful, dedicated public servants. But there are others who are only interested in being in a powerful position and who want to throw their weight around."

Vienna resident Kathy Stoltz is president of the state League of Women Voters. She said she used to be doubtful about using public funds to finance campaigns. However, she said she has come to believe that reform is needed.

"It has just gotten so slimy that we have to do something. If public money is what it will take to flush out the sewer that campaign financing has become, here’s my money," Stoltz said. "If you really want a citizen Legislature, you need to pass a law that will let more citizens participate."

Contact Roger Adkins at


Voter-Owned Elections

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