Attorney for Democrat candidate to high court seeks to block 'rescue' funds for Republican

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An attorney who has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court to have West Virginia's Supreme Court public-funding pilot project declared unconstitutional asked to be allowed to intervene Thursday in a petition by candidate Alan Loughry that seeks a Supreme Court order to release more than $144,400 in campaign "rescue" funds.Charleston attorney Anthony Majestro asked to intervene on behalf of former state Democratic Party chairman Michael Callaghan to block release of the funds.At issue is a provision in public-financing law that allows Loughry -- who already has received $350,000 in public funding for the general election campaign for the Supreme Court -- to get an additional $400,000 to match spending by opponents in the race.Majestro, who also serves as campaign attorney for Democratic Supreme Court candidate Tish Chafin, argues in the District Court complaint that the so-called rescue funding violates the free speech rights of the other Supreme Court candidates, who are funding their campaigns through contributions and personal resources.
In his motion, Majestro argues that, if Callaghan is not allowed to intervene, there will be no parties to the lawsuit opposing Loughry's motion seeking release of the supplemental payment.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and the state Elections Commission are defending the rescue provision as constitutional, and Treasurer John Perdue and state Auditor Glen Gainer filed briefs Thursday arguing that they are not parties to the lawsuit, since neither has been asked to approve or award the $144,400 rescue payment check.In his brief to the court, Perdue stated that he takes no position on whether the Supreme Court public-financing pilot project is constitutional.Meanwhile, the Supreme Court granted a request by West Virginia University law student Anthony Delligatti to file a "friend of the court" brief defending the constitutionality of the public-financing law.Based on an article to be published this fall in the West Virginia Law Review, Delligatti argues that the state's compelling interest in assuring the independence and impartiality of the judiciary outweighs the free speech rights of the other candidates."The importance of protecting the integrity and impartiality of the West Virginia judiciary is far greater than any speech it may hinder," Delligatti states.Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.
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