This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

July 15, 2008

Manchin signs election disclosure bill

By Phil Kabler
Staff writer

More than two weeks after it passed in a special legislative session, Gov. Joe Manchin finally signed a controversial bill that requires election advocacy campaigns to disclose their contributors into law Monday afternoon.

The measure split the House and Senate along party lines, and extended the special session from two to five days as Republicans refused to suspend rules to speed up passage votes on the bill (HB219).

Supporters of the bill contend that it does not restrict various interest groups from conducting election advocacy campaigns, but merely requires that they disclose their funding sources.

Opponents argued it would have a chilling affect on the campaigns by organizations for or against particular candidates, saying the disclosure requirement will drive away many would-be contributors.

One of the bill's leading advocates, House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha, said Monday she was starting to become concerned about Manchin's delay in signing the bill.

"I just assumed if he put it on the agenda, and we had gotten it passed with a pretty large consensus, then they did not have any concerns with it," she said. "Some people starting asking questions about why it hadn't been signed yet. I only started to get concerned over the weekend."

However, Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg noted that, while the bill passed the Legislature on June 28, it was not enrolled and presented to the governor until July 8.

Staff attorneys did not have enough time to complete their review of the final version of the bill before Manchin left last week to attend the National Governors Association meeting in Philadelphia, she said.

"It just took awhile to review the elections bill," she said. "There's a lot to it."

The legislation restores portions of a 2005 campaign law blocked by an injunction issued in April by U.S. District Court Judge David Faber.

In that decision, Faber upheld requiring disclosure of funding sources for television and radio ads - but not for other forms of campaign advertising, including print ads, direct mail and billboards.

Faber said the 2005 law failed to provide compelling evidence that those forms of advertising can affect election outcomes - something the new legislation spells out in detail in its legislative findings.

Webster said she would not be surprised if one of the affected organizations goes back to court to challenge the new law, but hopes the new version of the law will withstand legal challenges.

"This law does not prohibit anybody from running any ad that they would have run before," she said. "It just requires them to disclose funding for non-broadcast ads, just like they do for broadcast advertising."

Webster said she also disagrees with Republican legislators who argued that bill was being passed in an election year to protect Attorney General Darrell McGraw from attack ads this fall.

"I'm still trying to figure out how passage of this law benefits any candidate over another," she said.

Reach Phil Kabler at or 348-1220.

Voter-Owned Elections

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