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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's first super political action committee is considering its post-2012 election options after winning a temporary federal court ruling allowing its donors to contribute unlimited amounts.
The PAC, Stay the Course West Virginia, was one of several groups that funded independent ad campaigns last year. It also filed a challenge of state campaign laws meant to regulate independent expenditure PACs. The lawsuit prompted an order in August from U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Johnston that temporarily blocked a $1,000-per-election cap on contributions to such groups. The case remains, with Stay the Course seeking a final ruling that permanently strikes down the contribution limit and prevents county prosecutors from enforcing it.
Spokesman Jason Parsons said the group hasn't decided if it will take part in future elections, but it considers its 2012 effort a success, because it was formed to help re-elect Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. After the Democrat won a special election the previous year for the unexpired term of U.S. Sen.-elect Joe Manchin, voters gave Tomblin a full four-year term in the Governor's Mansion in November. His inauguration ceremony is Monday.
"As the state's first super PAC, it was a unique opportunity to participate in the political process," Parsons said in a statement. "We were proud to be able to engage more West Virginians in the process and pave the way for more involvement in the future."
The group is registered as a PAC and with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a 527 group, referring to the relevant section in the tax code.
Such groups accepted unlimited donations, and several operated in West Virginia before the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission cleared the way for federal super PACs.
Stay the Course, which invoked Citizens United in its challenge, reported raising $73,480 and spending $64,330 during the election cycle.
Most of its funds came in contributions that exceeded the suspended cap.
The largest, $25,000, came from International Industries, the main company of James "Buck" Harless. While a longtime supporter of Tomblin's, Harless also is a major GOP donor and was a top fundraiser for former President George W. Bush.