PROPONENTS of public financing of political campaigns say it would reduce the appearance that elections can be bought. Members of the state Elections Commission hailed the victory of publicly financed Allen Loughry to the state Supreme Court as proof the concept works.
In fact, it proves the opposite.
Legislators used the 2012 state Supreme Court race to test public financing of political campaigns. Loughry was the only candidate to volunteer for the experiment, which required him to limit his fundraising.
The state gave him $363,000 and promised him more if his opponents raised money above a certain limit. But the state's high court, following the U.S. Supreme Court, struck down the second provision as unconstitutional.
Loughry spent $430,000 to defeat Democrat Tish Chafin, who spent $1.5 million. But Republican Circuit Judge John Yoder, who spent $38,000, also beat Chafin.
Incumbent Democratic Justice Robin Jean Davis spent nearly $1.3 million and was re-elected.
Thus, the person who spent the most finished last. This undercuts the whole argument for public financing.
Giving Loughry nine times the money Yoder raised may have hurt the person who raised the least money.
Public financing of political campaigns is wrong.
In this case, the public's money came from an account related to the state auditor's purchase card system. But West Virginians' money should not be poured into the campaigns of people they may or may not support.
The Legislature should end the program and put any balance in the fund to better use.