Court lets McGraw intervene in public campaign funding case

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In an order issued late Tuesday, the West Virginia Supreme Court granted a motion by Attorney General Darrell McGraw to intervene against Supreme Court candidate Allen Loughry in his case seeking a court order for the release of more than $140,000 of public campaign financing matching funds.That order came hours after attorneys for Loughry petitioned the court to deny the motion to intervene.Attorneys for Loughry, a Republican, argued that the only persons who have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the "rescue fund" provision are the three other candidates running for the Supreme Court -- none of whom have raised objections to the awarding of matching funds.Also, they argued, allowing the attorney general's office to intervene would present a conflict of interest by having deputy attorneys general arguing both for and against the constitutionality of West Virginia's public campaign financing pilot project.
"My attorneys today filed an objection to McGraw's motion," Loughry said prior to the court order. "He has no standing in the case and appears to have a direct conflict since his clients -- the state Election Commission and secretary of state's office -- have clearly indicated that they support the law."Senior Deputy Attorney General Silas Taylor is representing the Elections Commission and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who voted in July to defend the matching funds provision in the state public financing pilot project.Two weeks earlier, the Elections Commission deadlocked on a 2-2 vote on a motion to release more than $140,000 in rescue funds to Loughry's campaign, in addition to the initial $350,000 of public campaign financing, to allow Loughry to match the $494,471 that Democratic incumbent Justice Robin Davis had reported spending on the general election through June 30.Conversely, Managing Deputy Attorney General Barbara Allen filed a motion to intervene, and an amicus brief with the court arguing that there is no chance the matching funds provision would be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has struck down similar laws on the grounds that the supplemental funds violate the First Amendment rights of candidates who are privately financing their campaigns.
In the petition to the court, attorneys for Loughry -- including attorneys from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University -- argued that the only persons with standing to challenge the matching-funds provision in the public financing pilot project are the other candidates: Davis, Democrat Tish Chafin and Republican John Yoder."If the nonparticipating candidates believe that the law unconstitutionally infringed on their First Amendment rights, they of course could have come forward to contest the matter in their own names. However, all have remained silent," the petition stated.Former West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Callaghan previously filed a motion to intervene in the case, but the Supreme Court denied his request.Callaghan's attorney, Anthony Majestro, is also legal counsel for the Chafin campaign.In a statement, Loughry objected to efforts by the attorney general's office to overturn the public campaign financing law."The pilot project was overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature to allow for fair judicial elections in West Virginia," Loughry said. "I am disappointed in those who continue to stand against West Virginians who want fair and clean elections."Ironically, the legislation creating the public financing pilot project was sponsored by Democrats who were troubled by the growing influence of outside campaign funds in judicial races, typified by $3 million of independent expenditures by coal operator Don Blankenship in the 2004 Supreme Court race in a successful effort to unseat Justice Warren McGraw, a Democrat.
Oral arguments in Loughry's case are set for Tuesday in the Supreme Court chamber.Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.
Show All Comments Hide All Comments

User Comments

More News