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Statehouse Beat: Online campaign finance reporting system still facing problems

Some updates:

In the past week, the new campaign finance reporting system in the secretary of state’s office has improved from FUBAR to somewhat functional.

Late Monday, after apparently being unable to post scanned paper reports on the new reporting system’s web page, the office posted temporary links to the reports. That means at the moment, campaign reports are in two places, with the link to the paper reports, and a link for candidates who filed online using the new system.

While the paper reports are organized by district, the online reports are in no particular order, either by district or alphabetically.

“This is temporary and more functionality will be added at a later date,” a memo from the secretary of state’s office dated Monday states.

Actually, if they ever get the bugs out, the new reporting software will provide a lot of neat functions, including being able to enter a donor’s name, and see all contributions to all candidates made by that individual.

A lot of campaign reports remain MIA. In Kanawha’s 35th, 36th, and 37th districts, for example, seven candidate reports are not filed. In previous years, one could say with 99 percent certainty that meant the candidates had not filed, but at this point, that’s unclear.

(Meanwhile, 37th District candidate Mike Pushkin stopped by the press room, and expressed his frustration with the online system. Pushkin, whose report includes nine pages of contributors of $250 or less, said he tried to file online, but said the system kept changing the dollar amounts he was attempting to enter. He said he finally gave up and filed a paper report.)

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The announcement that the Department of Commerce is transferring $1.2 million to bolster (actually, more than double) the Division of Tourism’s spring advertising campaign budget had some concerned that the state might be foregoing its sponsorship of The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament in lieu of additional advertising, post-Jan. 9 water contamination incident.

(The state pays $1.85 million each year to Jim Justice’s Old White Charities to be a participating sponsor of the golf tourney.)

However, I was reassured by Commerce’s Chelsea Ruby (just back from maternity leave, congrats) that the $1.2 million will be taken from the division’s marketing account, and funding for the state’s participation in the 2014 Classic is secure.

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Now that Politico has finally picked up on the Joe Manchin for governor 2016 rumors/speculation (I believe I first wrote about it in November 2012), here’s another one to chew on: There is a speculation that when Earl Ray Tomblin steps down as governor in January 2017, he will return to the state Senate -- as Senate clerk.

Points in that favor: Senate clerk traditionally is a former member of long standing; Tomblin holds the state Senate in great esteem, much the way Sen. Robert C. Byrd venerated the U.S. Senate; and current state Senate Clerk Joe Minard is 82.

Interestingly, neither Manchin nor Tomblin’s leadership styles are ideally suited for the offices they currently hold.

Manchin is a hands-on, pick up the phone and get it done now kind of guy, a style much better suited for the executive branch than the legislative branch. Tomblin’s forte, meanwhile, is to get all the players around the table and methodically negotiate compromises -- a skill set ideally suited for the legislative process.

Manchin, I suspect, would like the legacy of being the first four-term governor in state history, besting family friend Arch A. Moore Jr. by a term. One factor playing against that scenario, however, is that Manchin enjoys the national media spotlight, and it’s doubtful the cable news talk shows would come calling as often if he were merely governor.

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I’m advised that investigators from the Ethics Commission have been on the West Liberty University campus reviewing documents.

Commission staff by law cannot comment on the status of any investigation, but recall some West Liberty faculty had raised concerns about possible misuse of university resources and staff by the film production companies set up by university President Robin Capehart.

Capehart’s Flyover Films/Route 40 Films to date have produced two feature-length independent films, “The Doughboy” (re-released as “The Pledge”), and “A Christmas Tree Miracle” (both starring daughter Emily Capehart).

Kristen Seibert, who worked for a time as producer and business manager of WLTV, West Liberty’s campus TV station, is manager of Flyover Films and was the executive producer of both films.

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Finally, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper had cataract surgery last week (the only thing keeping Uncle Phil from getting his done is a $4,000 deductible), and the surgeon marked “Yes” in indelible ink over the eye to be operated on.

Since it appears he’ll have “Yes” on his forehead for the foreseeable future, Carper said he’s considering modifying it to read “Vote Yes on the Levy” to promote the county levy election in May.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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