CHARLESTON – Beth Walker’s state Supreme Court campaign has responded to an attack ad from personal injury lawyers it says includes “false claims based on misleading evidence.”
A political action committee called Just Courts For WV began running television ads earlier this week against Walker, according to documents with the Secretary of State’s office. The ads are running in the Charleston-Huntington, Clarksburg and Beckley markets, according to Federal Communications Commission documents. The cost of the ad is $229,000, according to documents.
The ad, which can be seen online, ties Walker to former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, who was sentenced earlier this month to one year in prison and a fine for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards in relation to the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that left 29 miners dead.
“It ties Beth to Don Blankenship based on her answering a question in the 2008 campaign that she met with him once more than eight years ago,” Walker campaign spokesman Kent Gates said in a statement. “Meanwhile, the trial lawyers have funded her opponents and now the opposition to her.
“One thing is clear, among the five candidates for Supreme Court only Beth Walker is committed to standing up for the rule of law and determined to clean-up our state’s plagued judiciary. That is why a group likely funded by wealthy personal injury lawyers called Just Courts for West Virginia began airing ads this week making false claims based on misleading evidence.”
Gates said Walker is the only Supreme Court candidate who “has had the courage to stand up to the special interests that have led to West Virginia being called a judicial hellhole.”
“Now, it appears wealthy personal injury lawyers who want to continue to have undue influence over our state’s highest court are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into an effort that flat out lies about Beth Walker’s record,” Gates said.
The ad insinuates Blankenship is funding Walker’s campaign based on one meeting she had with him more than eight years ago.
“The fact remains that Beth Walker has met with thousands of West Virginians through the course of two campaigns,” Gates said, referring to Walker’s 2008 unsuccessful Supreme Court campaign. “Even more important, Beth Walker is committed to independence and integrity and that is why she has sought and received the support of countless groups representing West Virginians who share her commitment to the rule of law.”
On expenditure documents, the Just Courts For WV PAC lists donations from the following law firms: Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling ($100,000), Bailey Javins & Carter in Charleston ($50,000), Farmer Cline & Campbell in Charleston ($50,000), Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler ($25,000), McHugh Fuller Law Group in Mississippi ($25,000), Tiano O'Dell in Charleston ($25,000), Goldberg Persky & White in Pittsburgh ($20,000), Baron & Budd in Texas ($5,000) and Allan N. Karlin and Associates in Morgantown ($4,000).
On April 28, Walker’s campaign released a response to the Just Courts For WV ad. Walker’s ad is titled “What Kind of Judge?” and is airing in every market in the state to fight what Gates calls “the heavy handed and dirty efforts of personal injury lawyers who only represent themselves.”
“Why am I running for the West Virginia Supreme Court?” Walker says in the ad, which can be viewed online. “Because like you, I am tired of liberal judges trying to legislate the law rather than strictly interpret it.”
Gates stressed for voters to become informed about the Supreme Court race. The non-partisan election is May 10.
“State finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s office show that the primary funding source of the Walker campaign is her – not any one person or special interest group,” Gates said. “A similar report filed for Darrell McGraw shows that his campaign is being funded almost entirely by wealthy personal injury lawyers. The finance reports for both Brent Benjamin and Bill Wooton show these same personal injury lawyers are contributors to their campaigns.
“Benjamin and Wooton used these donations to obtain almost $500,000 of taxpayer money a piece to fully fund their campaigns. It is clear who is trying to continue their influence over our state’s plagued judiciary.
“West Virginians have a choice in the race for Supreme Court. They can vote for one of the candidates who will represent the failed system and continue to allow wealthy personal injury lawyers to line their pockets at our expense. Or they can vote for the only candidate with the courage and conviction to take on the special interests and stand up for the rule of law.”