Warner: West Virginia election laws bring spending transparency

PARKERSBURG — Several major changes in West Virginia campaign finance laws will offer the public the most transparent reporting in the history of the state, according to the West Virginia secretary of state.

Changes under Senate Bill 622 passed this year by the Legislature went into effect June 7, Secretary of State Mac Warner said.

Among the changes are new quarterly reporting deadlines for all candidates and political committees. The law now mandates $10 per day fines for any late reports and the names of late filers will be published to the public on the secretary of state’s Campaign Finance Reporting System.

The new law closes loopholes for federally registered organizations that make last-minute expenditures attempting to influence the election or defeat of candidates. Those reports will now be electronically filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and available to the public with all other organizations that make independent expenditures.

“West Virginians should have a right to access and view as many details as possible that surround political spending, especially by outside groups,” Warner said. “The increased transparency and ease of access of public information will shine some light on previously difficult to find political spending in our state.”

The changes mandate all political committees, not just candidates, to electronically file campaign finance reports. Online filing allows for immediate public disclosure of political expenditures and contributor information that can be searched on the secretary of state’s online Campaign Finance Reporting System.

“These new provisions provide greater transparency and additional reporting requirements for those individuals and political committees participating in West Virginia elections,” Warner said. “Our staff is prepared to assist the general public by ensuring compliance with these new rules.”

The West Virginia State Election Commission published emergency rules and proposed Legislative Rules to effectuate the changes made by SB 622. The public notice and comment period for the Legislative Rules will remain open until 5 p.m. July 10.

To view the emergency rules, proposed Legislative Rules or the instructions for submitting public comments, click the following links:

* 146-01 Corporate and Membership Organization Political Activity: http://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/readfile.aspx?DocId=51200&Format=PDF; http://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/readfile.aspx?DocId=51203&Format=PDF

*146-03 Regulation of Campaign Finance: http://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/readfile.aspx?DocId=51201&Format=PDF; http://apps.sos.wv.gov/adlaw/csr/readfile.aspx?DocId=51204&Format=PDF

Additional information and educational materials related to the changes in the campaign finance laws can be found at www.sos.wv.gov/elections or call the secretary of state’s Elections Division at 304-558-6000 or email them at Elections@wvsos.gov.