Senate Bill No. 356

(By Senator Wagner, Grubb, White,

Schoonover and Macnaughtan)


[Introduced February 14, 1995;

referred to the Committee on the Judiciary; and

then to the Committee on Finance.]


A BILL to amend chapter three of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated article one-b, relating to elections and campaign practices; adoption of a code of fair campaign practices; creating a bipartisan board to investigate and issue advisory opinions concerning proper and improper conduct under the code of fair campaign practices; purposes of board; membership and appointment of board; members to serve without compensation; board plan; empowering board to issue and publish opinions concerning violations of the code of fair campaign practices.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That chapter three of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated article one-b, to read as follows:
§3-1B-1. Fair campaign commission created; members; appointment; term of office; meetings.

(a) There is hereby created the West Virginia fair campaign practices commission, consisting of three members, no more than two of whom shall be members of the same political party. One member of the commission shall be appointed by the governor, one member shall be appointed by the president of the senate, and one member shall be appointed by the speaker of the house of delegates. No member may be appointed to the commission or continue to serve as a member of the commission who is a candidate for or holds any public office nor shall any commission member hold any political party office. In the event a commission member becomes a candidate for public office or holds an elected, appointed, or political party office his or her office as a member of the commission shall be deemed immediately vacated.
(b) Of the initial appointments made to the commission, the member selected by the governor shall serve for a term of six years after the effective date of this section, the member selected by the president of the senate shall serve for a term of four years after the effective date of this section and the member selected by the speaker of the house of delegates shall be for a term of two years after the effective date of this section. Thereafter, the term of office of members of the commission shall be six years, each term ending on the same day of the same month of the year as did the term which it succeeds. When a vacancy occurs as a result of death, resignation, or disqualification, it shall be filled by appointment within thirty days of the vacancy for the unexpired portion of the term in the same manner as original appointments. Any member of the commission shall be eligible for reappointment.
(c)The commission shall elect from this membership a chairman who shall serve for a term of two years.
(d)The commission shall meet in the state capitol in an office designated by the secretary of state. The commission shall hold such meetings as may be called by the chairman or any member. The secretary of state shall be responsible for furnishing notices of such meetings and attend to the administrative duties associated with the functioning of the commission.
(e) Each member of the commission shall be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses actually incurred in the performance of his or her duties as a member of the commission.
§3-1B-2. Legislative findings, purpose, declaration and intent.

The Legislature hereby finds and declares that every candidate for public office should follow the basic principles of decency, honesty and fairness in the course of their campaign practices. It is the further goal of the legislature that candidates for public office will voluntarily subscribe and adhere to the code of fair campaign practices and agree to abide by the spending limits recommended in the code. Therefore the Legislature declares that it is necessary to adopt the code of fair campaign practices as a standard for which all candidates for public office should aspire and as a guideline for voters to determine fair play in the conduct of a campaign for public office.
§3-1B-3. Definitions.

For the purpose of this article the following definitions apply:
(a) The term "campaign advertising or communication" means a communication authorized by a candidate or an candidate's committee for the purpose of advocating the nomination, election or defeat of a candidate;
(b) The term "candidate for public office" means an individual who has filed a pre-candidacy statement according to the provisions of section five-e, article eight of this chapter, has qualified to have his or her name listed on the ballot of any election, or who has declared his or her intention to seek nomination or election through a petition or write-in procedure for any state, regional county, municipal, or district office which is to be filled at an election;
(c) The term "code" means the code of fair campaign practices as adopted in this article; and
(d) The terms "political committee" shall include all those persons and entities required to keep accounts and file financial statements pursuant to section five, article eight of this chapter.
§3-1B-4. Powers and duties of the commission.

The commission shall have the power to issue advisory opinions on whether an action or proposed action violates the provisions of the code of fair campaign practices. All advisory opinions shall be published and indexed in the state register by the secretary of state.
It shall be the commission's further duty to prepare and distribute copies of the code to voters, circuit and county clerks and other election officials and receive, investigate and act on complaints or other information concerning noncompliance with the code by candidates for public office that elect to subscribe to the code. The commission shall make public the name and identity of any candidate subscribing to the code and instances of compliance or noncompliance with the code after conducting a proper hearing pursuant to section five of this article.
§3-1B-5. Hearing; disposition; sanctions.

(a) If a majority of the commission determines that there is a reasonable likelihood that a subscribing candidate for public office has violated a provision of the code it shall inform such candidate that he or she has a right to appear at a hearing before the commission within three days after the receipt of the notice to contest the allegations. If a majority of the commission determines after providing a subscribing candidate with notice and an opportunity for a hearing that such candidate has violated a provision of the code the commission may issue a public opinion censuring such conduct and reprimanding the candidate committing the violation of the code.
(b) Opinions issued by the commission concerning violations of the code of fair campaign practices may be appealed to the Circuit Court of Kanawha County or the circuit court of the county where the violation is alleged to have occurred by any subscribing candidate for public office subject to reprimand or censure only upon the grounds set forth in section [§29A-5-4], article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
§3-1B-6. Code of fair campaign practices.

At the time an individual files his or her pre-candidacy statement, certificate of announcement, nominating petition, and other paper evidencing an intention to be a candidate for public office, or when an individual files the statement of organization of a political committee, the circuit clerk, county clerk, or secretary of state receiving such filing shall furnish the individual with a form containing the text of the Code of Fair Campaign Practices. The form shall state that subscription and adherence to the code is voluntary.
The text of the code shall read as follows:

I SHALL CONDUCT this campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting positions and policies with sincerity and frankness, and criticizing without fear or favor the record and policies of candidates or political parties which merit such criticism.
I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal family life.
I SHALL CONDEMN the use of campaign advertising or communication of any sort which misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies the facts regarding any candidate or issue raised in my campaign.
I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical disability, physical health status or age.
I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT any dishonest or unethical practice which tends to corrupt or undermine our American system of free elections, or which hampers or prevents the full and free expression of the will of the voters including acts intended to hinder, prevent, or discourage any eligible person from registering to vote, or from voting, or which is intended to affect voting through the buying of influence or votes.
I SHALL NOT COERCE election help or campaign contributions for myself or my committee or for any other candidate or any ballot issue from my employees or from any person under my authority, influence or control.
I SHALL IMMEDIATELY AND PUBLICLY REPUDIATE support on behalf of or in opposition to any candidacy deriving from any individual or group which resorts to the methods and tactics which I condemn. I shall accept responsibility to take firm action against any subordinate or associate who violates any provisions of this code or the laws governing elections.
I PERSONALLY SUPPORT a limit on campaign expenditures that when reasonable, sufficient and fairly applied, does not limit or restrict the expression of ideas of the candidate or others on behalf of the candidate, but instead challenges individuals to engage in open dialogue on the issues rather than merely to purchase the excessive repetition of images and slogans.
ACCORDINGLY, IF I AM A CANDIDATE for one of the offices listed below, I will, in conjunction with the committee or committees organized on my behalf, adhere to the following limitations on campaign spending specified for the office I seek:
U.S. Senate$1,000,000$1,000,000

U.S. House of Representatives333,333333,333
Constitutional Officers100,000100,000
Supreme Court of Appeals125,000125,000
State Senate25,00025,000
House of Delegates12,50012,500
Circuit Judge40,00040,000
Expenditures which do not exceed the limits designated for the primary election may not be added to the limits for the general election.
I SHALL DEFEND AND UPHOLD the right of every qualified voter to full and equal participation in the electoral process.
AS A PUBLIC OFFICIAL, I PLEDGE to conduct my official duties in the public interest of all people without discrimination against any person, faction or group. Furthermore, as a public official I pledge not to utilize my office personnel or equipment on behalf of any ballot issue or candidate.
I, the undersigned, a candidate for election to public office in the State of West Virginia, or the chairperson of a political committee supporting one or more candidates for election, hereby voluntarily endorse, subscribe to, and solemnly pledge myself to conduct this campaign in accordance with the above principles and practices.
_______________________________ ______________________________
_______________________________ ______________________________

Candidate for/Committee Name Address and City
§3-1B-7. Forms.

The secretary of state shall prescribe the forms containing the text of the code and shall furnish the forms to the circuit clerks, county clerks and municipal clerks or recorders in quantities and at times requested by the clerks.
§3-1B-8. Retention of forms; public inspection.

The officer receiving the filing shall accept, at all times prior to the election, all completed forms evidencing subscription to the code.
Forms filed with the circuit clerk shall be immediately forwarded to the county clerk. The county clerk, secretary of state, and municipal recorder or clerk shall retain such forms filed with them for public inspection until one hundred eighty days after the general election.
§3-1B-9. Voluntary subscription to the code.

Subscription to and adherence to the provisions of the code set forth in this article is voluntary and in no event shall any person be required to subscribe to, adhere to, or endorse the code.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to adopt a code of fair campaign practices and establish a bipartisan fair campaign practices commission that is empowered to issue advisory opinions concerning acceptable campaign practices and conduct violative of the code of fair campaign practices.

Article 1B is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.