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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
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,
"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