When are some House of Delegates Democrats going to get the message?
The majority party is again trying to ram through a bill severely limiting speech by candidates and groups participating in the political process. At least this time you have to give sponsors Tim Manchin, Mike Caputo, Doug Reynolds, Brent Boggs and Linda Longstreth credit for creativity.
H.B. 4463 makes the state’s campaign finance laws so complicated that no one except a powerful interest group with a team of lawyers could get it right. Smaller groups and candidates will likely give up rather than trying to wade through the convoluted rules.
For example, one provision requires TV ads to list the top five donors to the campaign, while radio ads must list the top two; that may change daily as candidates and interest groups continue to raise money.
That and other requirements would be in addition to current Federal Election Commission and Federal Communication Commission rules on disclosure and tagging of ads.
On it goes for 24 pages, creating a second set of perplexing standards for state elections.
Making matters worse, Judiciary Chairman Tim Manchin took only two questions on the bill Friday before calling for a vote. It passed 12-11, as opponents shouted objections and points of order in a chaotic scene.
Some House Democrats have never gotten over the attempt by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s 2006 effort. He spent $2 million of his own money to try to turn the House Republican. He failed badly, but the event set in motion Democratic attempts to alter campaign laws to limit spending against incumbents.
Now Republicans, without Blankenship’s help, are close to taking over the House in the next election anyway and many Democrats are worried about their seats. That’s the real reason H.B. 4463, which would be better named the “Incumbent Protection Act,” is getting the greased lightning treatment.
West Virginia has already spent taxpayer dollars trying to defend similar laws, all of which were struck down by the courts. Do we need to go down this road again?
Participants in the political process can and do disagree about how much to try to control spending in campaigns, but it’s a waste of time and money for the state to put in place speech-restricting rules that will not pass constitutional muster.