West Virginia cannot limit contributions to political action committees that act independently of candidates or parties, a federal judge ruled Thursday, agreeing to block the state’s $1,000-per-election cap while one such group challenges its constitutionality.
U.S. District Thomas Johnston granted the preliminary injunction sought by Stay the Course West Virginia and two of its potential donors. The temporary freeze will remain pending the outcome of their lawsuit.
Stay the Course says it seeks to support incumbents it believes have improved West Virginia’s economy and business climate — and target their opponents — in the November general election. The potential donors include Pineville Lumber, a corporation whose president has contributed to Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in this year’s gubernatorial race.
With that elected office and the five others in the state executive branch on the ballot this year, along with two of the five seats on the state Supreme Court, independent PACs may play a major role in the fall campaigning.
Allen Prunty, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, cited a series of recent federal rulings at a hearing last week to argue that the state’s limit chills their free speech rights. Those decisions included one by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2010, which allowed an independent expenditure PAC for SpeechNow.org to raise unlimited donations from individuals.
Read the complete story in tomorrow’s Times West Virginian, available at newsstands or through home delivery by calling 304-367-2525 or 304-367-2527.