Read the report: http://www.courtswv.gov/supreme-court/docs/fall2012/12-0899.pdfCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia Supreme Court justices on Friday unanimously denied a request from a high-court candidate for more than $140,000 in public matching campaign funds. The justices cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared public campaign financing matching funds to be an unconstitutional infringement on the free speech rights of privately funded candidates.
Allen Loughry, a Republican running for a Supreme Court seat, sought the release of the funds under a state Supreme Court public campaign financing pilot project.
The West Virginia matching fund provision places a "substantial burden on the unfettered political speech of the privately financed candidates" and could not withstand a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court, based on its rulings in two other cases, state Supreme Court justices said in their ruling denying Loughry's motion.
"While we are sympathetic to Petitioner Loughry's position and agree with his assertion that judicial elections raise a number of compelling interests, we are bound to apply the [U.S.] Supreme Court's interpretation of the United States Constitution," the court ruled in an opinion drafted by Chief Justice Menis Ketchum.
The state Supreme Court opinion cited the case Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that public financing of candidates wasn't fair to those candidates who privately finance their campaigns. The state opinion also mentioned the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court again ruled 5-4 that limits on political spending by corporations and unions are unconstitutional.
Although justices denied Loughry's request for an order releasing the matching funds, they ruled that he is now free to raise campaign funds without having to forfeit $400,000 he has received to date in initial public campaign financing payments.
"This case presents a unique set of circumstances -- a publicly financed candidate has detrimentally relied on matching fund provisions that are found to be unconstitutional two months before the election," the ruling stated.
Justices said their decision to let Loughry raise private campaign funds without losing the public campaign funds he's already received is "a matter of fundamental fairness."
The ruling acknowledged Loughry's argument that the pilot project's goal of strengthening the public's confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary is a compelling state interest, but not at the cost of burdening the First Amendment rights of the other candidates in the race.