Another interest group has started putting big money in West Virginia politics: Out-of-state payday loan and cash advance companies.

Executives of two major check-cashing firms, Check Into Cash and Check ‘N Go, and their family members have made more than $12,000 in contributions to the re-election efforts of House of Delegates and state Senate members, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office.

House members receiving contributions included Delegates Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; Linda Longstreth, D-Marion; Ron Thompson, D-Raleigh; Rick Thompson, D-Wayne; Carrie Webster, D-Kanawha; Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock; Brady Paxton, D-Putnam; Doug Stalnaker, D-Lewis; Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel; Joe Talbott, D-Webster; Tim Ennis, D-Brooke; and John Doyle, D-Jefferson.

Sens. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo; Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas; John Unger, D-Berkeley; and Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel all received contributions.

Neither Check Into Cash nor Check ’N Go operate in West Virginia.

Storefront cash-advance operations that charge fees are illegal in West Virginia. State law requires the transactions be considered loans and fall under interest rate requirements.

Iraq Service May Delay McGraw’s Campaign Suit

Former state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw is going ahead with a lawsuit against the driver of a truck that McGraw claims rear-ended his vehicle en route to an April 2004 campaign event. McGraw alleges that the injuries from the collision may have cost him his 2004 re-election bid.

But the driver’s father is asking for help because he said his son, John Tugman, already is at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and soon will be deployed to Iraq with the Second Marine Division.

David Tugman sent a letter last month to the Greenbrier Circuit Clerk’s Office stating that his son could not respond to the suit because of his military commitment.

If a judge finds that John Tugman can’t make it to Lewisburg to defend himself because of his military service, the case would be stalled at least until his overseas deployment is complete.

McGraw claims in his suit that he lost the election, in part, because the back pain he experienced after the accident. McGraw says it was his grimacing during his now-infamous “looking for ugly” speech four months after the accident that damaged his chances and not the speech itself.

McGraw wants the money he would have made if he had won the 12-year team he was seeking, which would be more than $1.45 million, in addition to other damages.

Stocking Up

Political junkies will love the new Washington Stock Exchange, an online market in which traders can buy or sell shares in individual candidates.

It works like this: Every trader who signs up automatically gets $1 million in funny money to “invest.” Traders then can buy shares of potential political outcomes.

For example, shares of “Sen. Robert Byrd to Win WV Senate Seat” were trading $7.44 higher than shares of “John Raese to Win WV Senate Seat” this week. If Byrd wins, shares of his stock will be worth $100. But if he loses, they will be worth nothing.

While the Washington Stock Exchange is only trading in play money for now, it offers investors the chance to make predictions on individual legislative and state races. The Web site for the exchange is www.thewsx.com .

Swimming in

the Mainstream

Mike Callaghan’s campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., got a much-needed boost this week when Gov. Joe Manchin, Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Robert S. Kiss hosted a fundraiser for him at the University of Charleston. The Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation will be hosting a Capitol Hill fundraiser for him later this month.

This marks the most visible, mainstream financial support the cash-poor Callaghan campaign has seen so far.

Barack in Business

The mutual admiration between the oldest and youngest Democrats in the U.S. Senate will have a financial impact on West Virginia politics. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is the keynote speaker for the West Virginia Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Charleston Sept. 23. The event already is a sell out, but Obama is going to do an hour-and-a-half fundraiser for Byrd before the event. Even with the $5,000-a-person admission fee, Byrd boosters expect a big turnout.

Survey Says

Sen. Robert C. Byrd holds a 32-point lead over challenger John Raese in a Rasmussen Report poll from early September. While Byrd’s 63 to 31 percent lead augers well for his re-election bid, the fact the poll shows only 6 percent of likely voters surveyed still undecided may be even more significant. Raese’s camp, though, indicates they are just now rolling out their strategy, including a new ad that’s airing in heavy rotation that criticizes Byrd for voting against allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Financial Independence

In his first filing with the Secretary of State’s Office this election cycle, Don Blankenship reported having spent $291,728.89 of his own money to lay the groundwork for his campaign to defeat the majority of incumbents in the House of Delegates. From this point on, Blankenship will need to make a report every time he spends an additional $5,000 in support of candidates. If Blankenship spends a similar amount to what he laid out against McGraw in 2004, it would mean another 600 campaign reports before Election Day.

Hearing About Earmarks

A new ad from U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., said some of the same federal earmarks that have put him in the electoral hot seat also have helped stop roadside bombs in Iraq. But his opponent, Delegate Chris Wakim, R-Ohio, said the executives of the companies featured in the ad have been major Mollohan contributors.

He says Mollohan’s campaign and family foundation have received more than $51,000 from the executives of Information Research Corp. and the West Virginia High Technology Consortium, which have both benefited from federal earmarks directed their way by Mollohan. Wakim staffers said they expect to get a boost Sept. 15 on a conference call for high-dollar donors and power broker in his party with Republican Nation Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who will be touting Wakim’s campaign organization and chances for success.

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