CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney's campaign filed a formal complaint with Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office on Tuesday over automated "robocalls" that the state Democratic Party made to Republican voters.
But the state Democratic chairman said his party cleared the phone calls with Tennant's office before they were made. And West Virginia lawmakers have removed references to "phone banks" from laws governing electioneering communications, after a federal judge ruled them unconstitutional.
On Sunday, the state Democratic Party began making several thousand robocalls to registered Republican voters in districts that elected Republicans to the state Legislature.
The robocalls criticized two recent television advertisements, paid for by the Republican Governors Association, attacking Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for supporting a new mine reclamation bill and a bill to restrict some benefits, not including health-care benefits, given to retired state workers and public school teachers.
All Republican senators and a wide majority of Republicans in the House of Delegates voted for both bills. The West Virginia Coal Association also backed the new mine reclamation bill, which raised taxes on coal to improve environmental cleanups.
In a letter filed with Tennant's office on Tuesday, Maloney campaign manager Seth P. Wimer wrote, "The robocall is false and misleading and is a violation of West Virginia election law.
"As you know, West Virginia election law requires those who fund electioneering communication to clearly identify themselves in the message," Wimer wrote. "I would like to request that your office investigate this election law violation."
Jake Glance, a spokesman for Tennant's office, would not discuss the Maloney complaint other than to acknowledge it had been received.
Speaking generally about state election law, Glance noted that the word "robocall" does not appear in state code, and "the phrase 'phone bank' was removed from state code in 2010 following a 2008 ruling" by U.S. District Judge Thomas E. Johnston.