01 March 2010

Legislature 2010: Campaign Finance (Updated)

The House of Delegates is nearing a vote on a campaign finance measure that could address what The New York Times calls a loophole left by January's landmark ruling on the topic by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The article cites campaign finance lawyers who argue the decision "could allow companies to pay for extensive political advertising while avoiding the disclosure requirements the court appeared to leave intact."

"Experts say the ruling, along with a pair of earlier Supreme Court cases, makes it possible for corporations and unions to donate anonymously to nonprofit civic leagues and trade associations," the Times reports. "The groups can then use the money to finance the types of political advertisements that were at the heart" of the January ruling.

The House bill seeks to apply that ruling while also fixing past legislative attempts to regulate these kinds of ads, known as electioneering communications. These previous efforts have twice resulted in federal court orders blocking their enforcement at least in part.

The second of those orders remains in effect, with supporters of the House bill hoping its provisions can resolve at least some of the judge's objections.

As The Associated Press reported earlier, a unanimous House Judiciary Committee endorsed the bill, with critics of the prior rounds of legislation applauding its provisions. But as AP noted, such was not the case for a companion measure that is also coming up for a House vote.

This other bill "would require in-state corporations that want to spend funds on political activities to obtain shareholder approval beforehand, and report on that spending to them afterward," the article said. "Several committee members questioned whether its provisions were workable, or fair given that out-of-state corporations would be exempt."

Update: The wide margin of support seen for the "electioneering communications" bill vanished with Monday's party-line, 69-26 House vote passing it to the Senate, AP reports. Foes raised constitutional concerns both about it and the bill aimed at in-state corporations, which advanced 61-34.

A third bill also up for a House vote this week would offer public funding to 2012's state Supreme Court candidates, as proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, AP reports.

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