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Statehouse beat: Public campaign financing may look better soon

I'm looking forward to Tuesday's oral arguments before the state Supreme Court regarding court candidate Allen Loughry's motion asking the court to order that he receive more than $140,000 in campaign funds due him, under the state Supreme Court campaign public financing pilot project -- and it's not just because of the bizarro-world aspect of having Democrats opposing publicly financed elections, and at least some Republicans supporting them, or that there will be two deputy attorney generals participating, arguing for and against the motion.One argument I hoped will be raised is whether the rationale for the precedent setting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a similar public financing law in Arizona is, in itself, completely screwy.One argument against releasing the "rescue" funds to Loughry is the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned a similar matching fund provision in the Arizona law on the grounds it violated the First Amendment rights of privately financed candidates.But how? If the law capped the campaign expenditures of the privately funded candidates at the level of any publicly financed candidate, then yes, they could argue their free speech rights were being abridged.Nothing in the West Virginia law prohibits the privately financed candidates from raising and spending all the campaign funds they can get their hands on. It just provides that as they pass certain spending thresholds, the state will cut Loughry a check to help keep his campaign in the game. Otherwise, his initial $350,000 of public campaign funds for the general election would quickly be overwhelmed by opponents who have resources to top seven figures in their campaign expenditures.One commentator critical of the matching funds provision incorrectly likened it to Orange Bowl officials awarding touchdowns to Clemson to help the team avoid its infamous 70-33 blowout.However, a more accurate analogy would be if the Mountaineers had arrived in Miami fielding a team with 120 players, while Clemson had a roster of only 40 players, that the officials would allow Clemson to bring in additional players for the game, in hopes of making the match-up more competitive. Nationally, once this election is over, with all the influence of multimillion-dollar super-PACs, outrageously costly campaigns, and incessant campaign commercials, public campaign financing may well start to look a whole lot better to a lot of people ...***Recently, I wrote about how Regional Jail Authority executive director Joe DeLong's wife, Danielle, got a job as a tax clerk in the state auditor's office.Turns out that it was something of a quid pro quo.
Carol Shelhammer, wife of Mark Shelhammer, executive director of the electronic payments division of the auditor's office, was hired last month as an accountant/auditor in the Regional Jail Authority's central office. Her salary is $34,008.***Finally, I must confess that I did more than my fair share to contribute to West Virginia University's party school image.The year was 1981, and Lisa Birnbach, author of the then-wildly popular "The Preppy Handbook," was on a national college lecture tour. The tour also doubled as research for her next bestseller, "Lisa Birnbach's College Book."
During her visit to Morgantown, she stopped by the Daily Athenaeum offices for a bull session with some of the staffers. At the time, we assumed it was just to get an orientation for the campus, but our comments ended up accounting for about 70 percent of her write-up on WVU.At one point, she asked what weekends were like at WVU, and I boasted that weekends in Morgantown begin on Thursdays and run through Monday night -- of course, a gross exaggeration, since most of us actually did study and go to class on Fridays and Mondays. Nonetheless, it ended up in the book, and Birnbach went on to dub WVU as "the quintessential party school."Birnbach's book became the template for other college guides that followed, including the new, just-published edition of the Princeton Review's "The Best 377 Colleges," which ranked WVU as the No. 1 party school in the nation.For all the wailing about the party school ranking, WVU's inclusion in the Princeton Review guide should be considered an honor, since there are some 1,600 colleges and universities nationwide that did not make the cut.(On its website, the Princeton Review editors note, "We selected these colleges and universities primarily based on our high opinion of their academics.")WVU is the only state institution deemed worthy of inclusion among the top 377 schools in the U.S., although the Princeton Review does have a somewhat less selective list of the 629 best colleges by region, and Bethany, Concord, Shepherd, the University of Charleston and West Virginia Wesleyan joined WVU on the list of best southeastern colleges. (No Marshall, however ...)
While the party school ranking made headlines, I have yet to see any coverage of another top 20 ranking WVU received from the Princeton Review: 15th best college library, ahead of institutions including UVA, Dartmouth, and Michigan ...Reach Phil Kabler at or 304-348-1220.
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