Third-party spending in SupCo race tops $3.5 million

By Chris Dickerson | May 6, 2016

CHARLESTON – Third-party spending in the state Supreme Court race now has topped $3.5 million.

Most of that money has come from two political action committees, according to filings with the Secretary of State’s office.

The Republican State Leadership Committee has spent $2,642,267 on its campaign. The RSLC has ran a handful of different ads endorsing Beth Walker’s campaign while attacking the campaigns of Darrell McGraw and Bill Wooton.

The Just Courts For West Virginia PAC, which is financed by trial lawyers, has spent $496,365.70. It’s advertising has been critical of Walker.

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce PAC has spent $316,994 in ads supporting Walker, while another PAC called West Virginians for Fair Courts has spent another $104,307.37 on ads supporting Walker. Another PAC called Moving West Virginia Forward also has spent $54,600 endorsing Walker’s bid.

A group called Regenerate West Virginia has spent $217 on ads supporting McGraw’s campaign.

Wooton and incumbent Justice Brent Benjamin have been critical of third-party spending in the race. Both have asked groups to stop advertising in the race and have asked their fellow candidates also to denounce the spending.

Wooton sent a letter to Walker asking her if she wants to be a “purchased justice” and said the RSLC is funded by “dark money.”

A spokeswoman for the RSLC discounted Wooton's comments.

“The RSLC is an independent organization that has conducted its engagement in the West Virginia Supreme Court race completely independent of the candidates who are running," RSLC Communications Director Ellie Wallace said.

According to previous campaign expenditure documents, the Just Courts For WV PAC lists donations from the following law firms: Bordas & Bordas in Wheeling, Bailey Javins & Carter in Charleston, Farmer Cline & Campbell in Charleston, Hill Peterson Carper Bee & Deitzler, McHugh Fuller Law Group in Mississippi, Tiano O'Dell in Charleston, Goldberg Persky & White in Pittsburgh, Baron & Budd in Texas and Allan N. Karlin and Associates in Morgantown.

Just Courts general consultant Mike Plante, who owns the consulting firm of Plante & Associates, explained the origins of the PAC.

“All of the people supporting the PAC are included in the disclosure,” he said. “There are a number of people who are concerned that the same forces that came together in 2004 for the exclusive purpose of buying a seat on the Supreme Court are coming together again to coalesce around a candidate.

"And, tons of their money is coming from out of state.”

The non-partisan Supreme Court election is May 10. Clay County attorney Wayne King is running in addition to Benjamin, McGraw, Walker and Wooton.

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