Publicly financed candidate doubts he'll get more money

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry said Monday he's not optimistic that the West Virginia Elections Commission will approve an additional $140,000 of public campaign financing funds he has qualified for when it meets in an emergency session Tuesday afternoon."I do not anticipate that happening, based on the last state Election Commission meeting," Loughry said.He's the only participant in a pilot project for public financing of Supreme Court campaigns. In March, his campaign received $350,000 for the general election and, under the law, could receive up to $400,000 in additional funds to match campaign spending by opponents.Based on the latest disclosures, Loughry is eligible for additional matching funds, since Justice Robin Davis' re-election campaign reported spending $494,471 from May 9 -- the day after the primary election -- through June 30.That tops a $420,000 threshold, which should trigger a payment of an additional $144,471 in matching funds to the Loughry campaign.However, at its June meeting, members of the Election Commission questioned whether they can authorize additional public financing matching funds -- also known as rescue funds -- in light of a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which held that a similar program in Arizona violated the free-speech rights of privately financed candidates.Loughry said he believes that ruling has no effect on the West Virginia public financing pilot project, which is limited to the West Virginia Supreme Court. The Arizona law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court was for legislative and executive branch campaigns."Courts have traditionally considered the executive and legislative branches of government as the two political branches of government," Loughry said."No court has made a determination as it pertains to West Virginia Supreme Court elections," he said. "In fact, no one has challenged this law."Under the 2010 law, the Legislature set aside $3 million of surplus funds for the public financing pilot project for the 2012 Supreme Court race.
Loughry, an attorney for the state Supreme Court and author, was the only candidate to qualify for public financing. Under the law, candidates must raise $35,000 through contributions of $100 or less to qualify for public financing. Loughry, a Republican, raised $62,050 in qualifying contributions.Loughry said he's considering legal action if the Elections Commission fails to authorize the matching funds at Tuesday's meeting."The secretary of state's office has created an unnecessary and enormous burden on my campaign with how it has handled the entire situation," said Loughry, who said he will have to decide shortly whether to continue to publicly finance his campaign, or drop out in order to raise private contributions."It's been an enormous distraction, and very disappointing to me," he added.Under the public financing law, nonparticipating candidates had to submit financial disclosures by July 13 indicating total campaign expenditures or commitments from May 9 through June 30.
Davis was the only candidate who reported exceeding the $420,000 spending threshold. Although the special disclosures do not have to be itemized, Dave Nichols, elections manager for the secretary of state's office, said many candidates are entering into contracts now to reserve commercial airtime for the fall campaign.Republican John Yoder submitted a disclosure indicating that his campaign's expenditures had not reached the $420,000 threshold for the reporting period.The secretary of state's office had not received a disclosure from Democrat Tish Chafin, although Nichols said the law appears to require candidates to file only if they have reached the $420,000 spending threshold.The emergency meeting of the Elections Commission is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the secretary of state's conference room.Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.
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