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West Virginia election laws challenged in federal court

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May 31, 2012

By Lauren Rodgers

West Virginia
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and the Mountain State's prosecuting attorneys are being sued by an independent political action committee and a group of potential donors who claim their First Amendment rights are violated by some of the state's election laws.[1]

Stay the Course West Virginia is an "unaffiliated independent expenditure political action committee"[2]. The organization, its chairman David Bailey, and two potential donors - Pineville Lunber Inc. and Thomas Stephen Bailey - filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. The suit challenges two parts of the state elections code: limits on campaign contributions and corporate spending.[2]

Under the current state code, an individual is prohibited from contributing more than $1,000 in connection with the election of any candidate, and a PAC is not allowed to accept contributions of more than $2,000 from any one person: $1,000 before the primary election and another $1,000 between the primary and general elections. The Secretary of State's office has a policy that no corporate political activity is permitted, except for the establishment of a PAC.[3] The plaintiffs argue the state's policies are inconsistent with state code and that the policy, in particular, is a violation of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens v. United.

Pineville Lumber reportedly wants to contribute $5,000 to Stay the Course and Thomas Stephen Bailey wishes to contribute $1,000, but both fear they would be subject to criminal prosecution as such contributions are a violation of current state law.[1]

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