High court candidate sees 'fiasco' in campaign funding

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A state Supreme Court candidate seeking more than $140,000 of "rescue funds" under a campaign financing pilot program said Wednesday his court battle has turned into a fiasco."How many of you think this [has] turned into an embarrassing fiasco?" said Allen Loughry, who is running for one of two seats available on West Virginia's high court.He later continued, "If some of the people fighting this now, if they worked this hard trying to do something positive for West Virginia, it's hard to imagine how far we'd be today."Loughry's comments came at a forum Wednesday for Supreme Court candidates at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's annual Business Summit, held at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs.Loughry has asked the state Supreme Court to release to him more than $140,000 in public campaign financing matching funds under a pilot program.Loughry's campaign has $400,000, he said Wednesday. The question is whether he will get the additional amount, he said.The pilot program is voluntary for Supreme Court candidates and is meant to test methods of safeguarding against bias in judicial rulings based on financial contributions to elected judicial positions, according to the secretary of state's website.Loughry said Wednesday that he has complied with the rules and guidelines for the program.
State Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office intervened in the case this week, concluding that based on previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings -- including one that overturned limits on corporate campaign contributions -- the pilot program would not likely survive a challenge before the high court.The state Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in Loughry's case for Sept. 4.In July, the Elections Commission voted 2-2 on a motion to release the rescue funds to Loughry's campaign, which defeated the motion. The $144,471 "rescue payment" would have been in addition to the initial $350,000 of public campaign financing Loughry has already received.At the time, that would have allowed Loughry to match the $494,471 that Democratic incumbent Justice Robin Davis had reported spending on the general election through June 30.Democratic candidates Tish Chafin and Davis, along with Republican candidate Judge John Yoder, also participated in the forum.Chafin said she is not against public financing, but did not participate in the program because she thinks there are better ways to spend taxpayers' money.Davis said she did not have much of a comment about the case except that she has recused herself in the Supreme Court case. 
Yoder said that as a sitting judge, he had no comment on whether the pilot program is constitutional, but that case law would indicate that the program is unconstitutional.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or (304) 348-1240.
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