This article originally provided by The Times West Virginian

May 8, 2008

Lawyers, coal, doctors top contributors in Supco races

By Lawrence Messina
Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON — Lawyers remain the most generous source of campaign cash for West Virginia’s Supreme Court races, with the coal industry and physicians also contributing significant sums to this year’s candidates, the latest finance reports show.

The three interest groups accounted for at least 60 percent of $1.29 million collected by the four Democrats and one Republican by late April. Lawyers provided about two-thirds of that 60 percent.

With two of the court’s five seats on the ballot, more than 140 people contributed to more than one candidate. At least 15 hedged their bets by giving to three.

Chief Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard, the sole incumbent running, had raised the most from individual contributors with nearly $587,000 as of April 27. Lawyers donated at least a fourth of his total, while coal interests accounted for about 17 percent and physicians more than 9 percent.

At least $24,500 of Maynard’s total, or about 4 percent, came from Massey Energy Co., its subsidiaries or suppliers. Maynard came under fire earlier this year after photos surfaced showing him in Monaco with Massey chief executive Don Blankenship while cases involving the coal producer were before the court.

Maynard and Blankenship have since cited their decades-long friendship, and said they met up in July 2006 after learning they would be vacationing in the same area. Denying any wrongdoing, Maynard has disqualified himself from a number of Massey-related cases since the photos grabbed national headlines.

Lawyers of all stripes contributed to Maynard, a Democrat and Mingo County native. Among corporate law firms, Jackson Kelly lawyers gave at least $18,650 while those at Steptoe & Johnson gave at least $11,250. Contributing trial lawyers included those from Fitzsimmons Law Offices, who gave $7,000, while the firm of Hill, Peterson, Carper, Bee, and Deitzler gave $5,000.

Maynard raised about $100,000 more than his three fellow Democrats combined, and they proved far more reliant on lawyer contributions for their totals.

“We were pleased with the success and feel it demonstrates the support Justice Maynard has statewide,” said Amy Shuler Goodwin, a campaign spokeswoman. “It shows that West Virginia voters care about creating jobs, keeping insurance rates low and keeping doctors in our state.”

Lawyers gave at least 56 percent of the money raised by Menis Ketchum, who received about $300,000 from individuals. Besides his own Huntington law firm, which contributed at least $6,000, Ketchum attracted at least $10,000 from the Campbell Woods firm.

Employees of J.H. Fletcher & Co., a mining equipment firm, gave at least $10,750 to Ketchum, while Huntington-based Champion Industries provided at least $6,000. Labor union officials and political action committees contributed about 3 percent of Ketchum’s total.

Ketchum campaign treasurer Bill Chambers said the contributions reflect how the effort “started with a committee made up of representatives from business, labor and the trial and defense bar.”

Bob Bastress, a West Virginia University law professor, also received 56 percent of his total from lawyers. Of his $106,000 raised, $5,000 came from lawyers at Bordas & Bordas, while members of the DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero firm gave more than $3,200.

“We would like to have raised more, of course. We did not, for example, raise enough to run TV ads outside the Kanawha Valley,” Bastress said. “The campaign staff has probably communicated with lawyers the most because, as a group, they care most about the court.”

Largely financing her campaign herself, former Justice Margaret Workman garnered about $76,000 from contributors. About 70 percent of that came from lawyers. The Hill, Peterson firm that gave to Maynard provided a similar amount, around $5,000, to her effort. She attracted another 7 percent of her total from labor PACs.

Workman said her total underscores her belief that most interest groups “want someone who they think will be on their side most of the time.”

“Fundraising has always been a difficult task for me, because I am not identified with either side of the philosophical aisle,” she said. “That is a tough place to be when it comes to winning a campaign, but my financial reports make it pretty clear that I am not bought by anybody.”

Unopposed in her primary, Republican Beth Walker had raised more than $132,400 by late April. Colleagues at her corporate defense firm, Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff & Love, contributed at least $22,900 of that. She also received funds from Steptoe & Johnson lawyers, at least $8,000.

Another $5,500 or so came from Walker Machinery, the mining equipment firm where her husband is an executive. With lawyers accounting for about 30 percent of her funds, coal interests contributed more than 15 percent and physicians, nearly 11 percent.

“The Committee anticipates that the campaign will be positioned very well to be competitive with the Democrat opponents in the general election,” Walker’s campaign said in a statement.

Among donors that gave to more than one candidate, nearly 40 percent contributed both to Ketchum and Maynard. Bastress and Workman were the beneficiaries for about 12 percent of them. Another 10 percent gave to Ketchum and Bastress, while an equal amount gave both to Maynard and Walker.

The Associated Press analyzed filings posted by the secretary of state’s office, which requires contributors of $250 or more to identify their occupations and employers. AP linked donors to interest groups for about 87 percent of the $1.29 million raised.


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