This article originally provided by
The Daily Mail
April 23, 2008
W.Va. ad rules partly blocked
by Lawrence Messina
The Associated Press
A federal judge has blocked West Virginia election officials from enforcing
several disclosure rules governing political advertising, agreeing with an
advocacy group that they are too vague.
U.S. District Judge David Faber partly granted the preliminary injunction sought
by the Center for Individual Freedom, which seeks to run ads in the state
Supreme Court race before the May 13 primary.
But Faber also narrowed the scope of Tuesday's ruling so that it would still
require spending and donor reports for broadcast ads that fall under the state's
"electioneering communications'' law.
The Virginia-based center sued over that 2005 statute, which seeks to regulate
various forms of advertising that "refers to a clearly identified candidate''
within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election.
The disclosure rules apply only to communications that cost $5,000 or more and
involve candidates for the Legislature or statewide office. Noting that the
state law's federal counterpart applies only to broadcast, Faber's ruling
exempts an array of other media from the disclosure and reporting requirements:
"mailings, faxes, emails, phone banks, leaflets, pamphlets, and other printed or
The core of Tuesday's ruling applies to provisions that forbid direct corporate
spending on elections and govern "independent expenditures.'' Faber limited
disclosure reports in these areas to ads that "expressly advocate the election
or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.''
Objecting to having to disclose its donors or spending, the center previously
waged similar fights in Louisiana and Pennsylvania and claimed partial victories
in each. Its lawyer welcomed Faber's order.
"This order gives the center substantial freedom to exercise its First Amendment
rights,'' Thomas Kirby said Tuesday. "We're going to take a look at the
situation and decide what we are going to say.''
The order noted that the center had sought to reach out to voters via broadcast,
print and telephone banks, regarding limits to lawsuits, damage awards "and
other related justice issues.''
Secretary of State Betty Ireland, targeted in the lawsuit as the state's chief
elections officer, plans to comply with the order while she reviews it and
weighs any grounds for appeal, Deputy Secretary Sarah Bailey said.
The lawsuit also named a representative county prosecutor, whose lawyer
praised the ruling's conclusions regarding preprimary electioneering
"We think it's a victory for transparent elections,'' Nick Preservati said. "Any
broadcast ads that they're going to run, they're going to have to disclose their
Faber concluded that the center ultimately would likely prevail in its legal
challenge of the corporate and independent expenditure provisions, given their
The judge also found that without his injunction, the center would suffer far
more harm than the defendants. Three Democratic candidates for Supreme Court --
Bob Bastress, Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman -- had intervened in the case
on Ireland's side along with the West Virginia Education Association and the
Those intervening groups and others allowed to file briefs in the case
criticized Faber's exemption of some ads from disclosure.
"You cannot fully judge the content of the message unless you know who the
messenger is and what that messenger's real motives are,'' said the Rev. Dennis
Sparks, executive director of the state Council of Churches. "Unless West
Virginia voters know where the money has come from, they cannot determine the
credibility the ads.''
Others that weighed in with filings included Citizen Action Group, the Ohio
Valley Environmental Coalition and the state Democratic Party, Employment
Lawyers Association and Association for Justice. The latter group represents
Coverage of the center's 2007 ad campaign in Pennsylvania revealed ties to the
now-defunct National Smokers Alliance. Created and funded by cigarette giant
Philip Morris, it gave the center $5 million when it dissolved in 2001.
As recently as 2006, the center relied on fundraising by American Target
Advertising, a Virginia company owned by veteran conservative activist and
direct-mailer Richard Viguerie, according to a disclosure report it filed in