CHARLESTON – West Virginia voters are being inundated with mailed political attack ads from the corporate front group, West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

It’s just more of the same from CALA, but the organization has sunk to an all new low – even for them.  The Charleston Daily Mail said it best: “The first nomination for worst [political] ad goes to West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.”

In the mailers, CALA attacks legislative candidates for accepting contributions from trial lawyers, but CALA doesn’t bother to disclose that those donations represent just a fraction of what each candidate raised.

A comprehensive analysis shows that these candidates have broad support.

Contributions came from industry leaders, our state’s largest corporations and small business owners.  They came from medical providers, labor unions and bankers.  They came from the coal industry and environmental activists.  There are contributions from college students and from senior citizens.

There are contributors who donated $1,000 and others who gave just $10.  What this shows is that a lot of West Virginians – voters with very diverse business and personal interests – believe that these candidates are the best ones for the job.

At the same time, CALA tries to ‘scare’ voters with big numbers, citing the $600,000 given to legislative candidates by attorneys and the West Virginia Association for Justice political action committee.  That is just a fraction of the more than $6.2 million in political contributions candidates have received.

More than 90 percent of the contributions came from other industries, individuals and interests, but CALA doesn’t bother to say that.  Why?  Because they don’t want West Virginia voters to know who is really trying to buy our elections.

Like Don Blankenship did before, the out-of-state, billionaire Koch brothers and other big-money corporate special interests are dumping millions into our state to buy seats in our legislature.  They want total immunity when they harm West Virginia consumers and workers and hurt our state-owned businesses.

In every case, these corporate interests refuse to disclose to state voters who they really are.  They hide behind false names like And for the Sake of the Kids, West Virginians for Prosperity and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.  It’s wrong.

West Virginia voters deserve to know who is really behind the attacks and why.

CALAs are funded by “large corporate donors, including tobacco, insurance, oil and gas, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, medical associations and automobile manufacturers.”  The groups are “part of a national corporate-backed network of ground groups that receive substantial assistance from [the American Tort Reform Association – another front group], APCO and some of America’s biggest corporations.” (The CALA Files, Center for Justice and Democracy)

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse began operating in 1994.  From Day 1, the group has refused to answer questions about who is funding the effort.  At the news conference announcing its formation, then spokesperson Jack Klim “would not say who is funding the group and its campaign” (Associated Press, printed in Charleston Gazette Aug. 31, 1994).

There are no membership fees or annual dues.  So who is funding WV CALA?  Twenty years down the road, it’s still refusing to tell West Virginians who its funders are.  It’s getting a lot of money from somewhere because it’s spending tens of thousands of dollars to influence our elections this fall.  Even the Daily Mail noted the slick, “expensive mailers” sent to voters.

Ironically, CALA picked which candidates to attack by reviewing the donors on their campaign financial statements.  At the same time, CALA is still refusing to tell West Virginians who its own funders are.  While it has filed what it has spent on the elections, not a single donor is identified and not a single penny is disclosed in violation of West Virginia election law.

As Republican U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated in 2013, “To evaluate speech intelligently, it’s good to know where the speech is coming from.”

Do CALA and its D.C. puppeteers believe that West Virginia voters don’t deserve to know?  Do they believe that we’re not smart enough to know when out-of-state billion-dollar special interests are trying to buy our elections?

The truth is that CALA is attacking candidates for supporting your Seventh Amendment rights and accepting campaign contributions from those who believe these rights should be protected.  These candidates are being attacked because they will put West Virginia first.

They are going to do what’s best for West Virginia businesses, workers and consumers—not for the out-of-state, billionaire corporate interests that are behind CALA.  Our Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury is one of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans.

We would never allow our First or Second Amendment rights to be destroyed.  West Virginia voters need to stand up for our Constitution and Bill of Rights and reject CALA’s misinformation and propaganda.

Based on this information, perhaps the Daily Mail didn’t go far enough in its criticism.

West Virginians deserve better.  It’s time to stand up and say, “NO MORE!”  We deserve the truth.  If there is nothing to hide, it’s time for CALA to come clean.

Majestro is the president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

 

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