This article originally provided by The Register-Herald

September 30, 2007

Delegate wants public financing law

By Mannix Porterfield

Delegate Tim Manchin believes most folks are turned off by the avalanche of negative campaign ads that flood the airwaves in a political campaign and is pushing for a public financing law to rein in the use of big bucks to sway opinions.

Manchin recalled the massive spending a year ago by Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in his all-out blitz to put control of the House of Delegates into the hands of the Republicans.

Except for a single triumph by a candidate with his blessings, Blankenship came out on the short end of the vote tabulation.

“I don’t think those kinds of negative campaigns and tactics are as effective against candidates whom people are familiar with,” Manchin, D-Marion, said in a telephone interview.

“They’re more effective on a statewide basis when people don’t really have that knowledge, and where they’d be a little more inclined to believe a certain bend of the truth.”

After all, Manchin pointed out, voters often run into their delegates and senators shopping at the same malls and grocery stores, sitting in a pew adjacent them in a house of worship or attending local events such as a Little League game.

Familiarity might breed contempt in some matters, but it works wonders for lawmakers staying in touch with their constituency.

In statewide races, however, where most voters have little knowledge of the candidates, slanted TV and radio ads can make a huge difference in the outcome, Manchin said.

“Unfortunately, they seem to work,” he said.

And this is particularly true if one candidate enjoys a never-ending supply of paid ads while his opponent has no funds with which to counter punch. The fight quickly becomes one-sided.

“People need to educate themselves a little more,” Manchin said.

Manchin would like to see the Legislature even the playing field by passing a public campaign finance law, patterned after ones in other states.

Common Cause identifies Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey and Vermont as states that provide money for gubernatorial candidates, while Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Nebraska and Rhode Island put up money for statewide candidates.

Legislative candidates may receive money in only six states — Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. A move is afoot by the West Virginia Citizens Action Group to gain passage of an election reform package that includes public financing of campaigns.

“I’m very much interested in seeing us come up with some sort of election reform that would provide an opportunity for candidates to reject all of those negative conditions,” he said.

“That’s too big a part of the process.”

Manchin had considered making a run for the state Supreme Court but decided it was in his best interests to remain a delegate in the 43rd District. So far, the candidates in the Democratic primary include Justice Elliott Maynard, former Justice Margaret Workman, Charleston attorney Michael Allen and West Virginia University law professor Robert Bastress.

“My wife and I wanted to raise our two girls here,” he said of Marion County.

“For now, I think this is the best place for me to be. It’s hard to walk away from your representation in the House. I think we’ve got a very effective group working together with the governor (his cousin, Joe). I want to be able to accomplish some things.”

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