Toriseva

Ireland

CHARLESTON - A Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom is seeking a temporary injunction which would allow the group to run political advertising without disclosing who paid for the ad or how much was spent.

U.S. District Judge David A. Faber was asked to grant the injunction in a hearing Wednesday afternoon, which would impact the advertising in the upcoming Supreme Court election.

The center claims West Virginia's campaign finance laws violate the organization's constitutional right to free speech. The current law does not prohibit the organization's right to run the ads, but does require it to disclose who is funding the campaign and how much is spent.

A group of lawyers claim the injunction would cause of repeat of the 2004 Supreme Court race. In that election, Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship spent about $3.5 million in a campaign against former Justice Warren McGraw.

Teresa Toriseva, counsel for the organizations who filed a "friends of the court" brief and president of the West Virginia Association for Justice, said state voters have a right to know who is behind a campaign.

"The Center for Individual Freedom wants to come into West Virginia and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence our Supreme Court elections," Toriseva said. "We firmly believe that is an organization is going to spend money on West Virginia elections, then West Virginia voters have the right to know who is funding the campaign, how much they're spending and the group's agenda."

Eight West Virginia organizations -- the West Virginia Association for Justice, the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the West Virginia Education Association, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, the West Virginia Council of Churches, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Employment Lawyers Association and the West Virginia State Democratic Executive Committee -- filed the brief fighting the injunction.

Chief Justice Elliott "Spike" Maynard, the only incumbent running, did not join the other Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court in fighting the injunction, saying he might have to rule on the case in the future.

Last month, the center filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Betty Ireland, the state's top election official. Her attorney, Tom Smith, said voters have the right to know who is behind information so they can identify potential bias in the source.

Faber said he would issue a ruling soon.

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