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W.Va. should not fund political campaigns

IN the name of "campaign reform," the Legislature  last year offered to fund the campaigns of candidates for the state Supreme Court if they collected 500 small contributions but accepted no more than $50,000.

The House's inclination is to make public financing permanent in Supreme Court races, giving candidates $300,000 in contested primaries and another $525,000 in the general election.

That's as much as $825,000 per candidate.

Concerned about where the public funds would come from, the Senate Judiciary Committee opted to limit public financing of high court campaigns to 2016 only.

It would be better to simply end this non-reform.

The premise behind an entitlement program for politicians is that some people think millionaires can buy elections in West Virginia.

It's obvious that is not the case. Last year alone,

millionaires John Raese and Bill Maloney lost their bids for U.S. senator and governor, respectively. Even Jay Rockefeller lost his first bid for governor in 1972.

In last fall's Supreme Court race, incumbent Justice Robin Jean Davis spent $1.3 million and was re-elected. She loaned her campaign about half the money.

Her fellow Democrat, Tish Chafin, loaned her campaign $1 million and spent $1.5 million - only to finish last behind Republicans Allen Loughry and Circuit Judge John Yoder.

Loughry accepted $363,000 from the state and spent $430,000 to win the seat. Yoder raised $38,000 and accepted no public financing.

While proponents of public financing point to Loughry's defeat of the big spender in the race, the fellow who spent the least also bested Chafin. Public financing may have tipped the election in favor of Loughry over Yoder.

The Daily Mail endorsed Davis and Loughry in the race, so this is not a matter of sour grapes. It is a matter of some importance.

It is not West Virginia politicians' job to manage public perception, much less to divert public money to candidates.

The electorate has proved itself perfectly capable of sorting out which high-dollar campaigns should succeed and which ones should not.

Public financing of political campaigns is a solution for an imaginary problem. Legislators ought to drop it.


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