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New campaign finance rules go into effect Friday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state’s new-look campaign finance law goes into effect Friday, which, among other things, will increase campaign donation limits to match federal levels.

Chuck Flannery

Senate Bill 622 increases individual contributions to candidates from $1,000 to $2,800 per election, up to $5,000 for political action committees and $10,000 for state party executive committees or caucus campaign committees.

The State Election Commission gave final approval to the emergency rules earlier this week. The rules include the disclosure requirements for PACs and other groups and apply to candidates who collaborate as a committee for events.

The rules were expected to be filed Thursday in time for the law taking effect Friday.

Commissioners discussed what organizations must file disclosure forms, noting the law applies to organizations that spend money during an election if the groups fund efforts affecting candidates or issues, but not other ballot matters such as constitutional amendments.

The law also includes a $10-a-day fine to candidates and campaigns that fail to file reports or file inaccurate reports to the Secretary of State’s Office.

“We do find a fine is a great deterrent for folks that might think it’s not important to file exactly on time as the law allows,” said Chuck Flannery, Deputy Secretary of State and chief of staff.

“This is important information to get to the voters, and very timely when you are approaching an election.”

Flannery said the secretary of state’s office is focused on providing transparency to the public; political action committees and parties have to file electronically.

“At any given time, you’ll find out what money is coming into what candidates to support what campaigns and what they are spending money on, at least on a quarterly basis and at least one report before each election.”

Flannery said the law closes some loopholes for independent expenditure reports, those filed with the Federal Election Commission, would not have to be filed with the state, now they will be.

“You go to our website you wouldn’t see it there. You wouldn’t know to go look at the FEC. That loophole’s been closed. The rule gives clearer information on how those reports are to be filed,” Flannery said.

State lawmakers will be asked to give final approval to the rules in next year’s regular legislative session.

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