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House passes campaign finance bill

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A bill that would make permanent the state Supreme Court's campaign finance pilot project cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming a law.

Members of the House passed House Bill 2805 in a 70-29 vote. The bill, which would eliminate the matching funds provision that was in the original pilot program, must still pass through the Senate and its committees.

"We're making it permanent because it was only a one-time deal," Delegate Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said. "There are certain changes we are making to it. Those changes deal with the amount of money the candidates will receive."

"The program has been very successful. We know one of the first people who utilized it," Manchin continued, referring to Justice Allen Loughry. "He spent one-third the amount of money that other candidates did. It's a good way to get special interest money out of elections."

The bill notes that in the 2012 election, state Supreme Court candidates raised a total of $3.7 million, a number steadily increasing from 2000-2008.  

"As spending by candidates and independent parties increases, so does the perception that contributors and interested third parties hold too much influence over the judicial process," the bill states.  

Participating candidates can collect contributions in aggregate from $35,000-$50,000. Qualifying contributions in excess of $50,000 will be sent to the State Election Commission for deposit in the fund, according to the bill.

For the general election, a certified candidate would receive up to $525,000 in a contested election and $35,000 in an uncontested race.