Compromise campaign finance bill going back to Senate committee

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A compromise bill raising the contribution limits for political candidates in West Virginia and making changes to campaign finance disclosure requirements is going back to the Senate Judiciary Committee┬áin the final weeks of the 2015 Regular Legislative Session.

It was taken off the Senate floor on Monday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson, 04) said the proposal is about increased transparency and accountability and “puts the candidates back in control of their message, rather than having these third-party, shadow organizations define the candidate and the issues.”

Currently, individuals can contribute up to $1,000 for West Virginia races, while the limit for federal races is $2,600.

In its current form, SB 541 would take contribution limits up to $25,000 for statewide races like governor, $15,000 for state Senate candidates, $10,000 for state House candidates and $5,000 for circuit judge and family court judges.

Political action committees plus political parties and caucuses would have no limits and restrictions on contributions. Candidates would also have no corporate or union restrictions.

Additionally, the bill would create an online searchable database on contributors and expenditures, an online list of late filers and a 24-hour reporting requirement for any contributions of $1,000 or more within the time period of the last reporting information and the election.

On Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Carmichael said the bill would give candidates for elected offices in West Virginia more money to push back against claims from outside groups that have no limits and no disclosure requirements.

“Any voter, any of your listeners will know all these ridiculous ads that we see from third-party interest groups that are a result of a candidate not being able to promote their individual views and opinions because of these artificially low (contribution) limits,” Carmichael said.

“Who wants to be told to vote for a candidate by some third-party interest group, rather than having the candidate promote their message?”

To keep moving during the ongoing Regular Legislative Session, the campaign finance bill will have to come out of the state Senate by Wednesday.

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