Changes to State Campaign Finance Law Go Into Effect

June 7th marked 90 days from the conclusion of the 2019 Legislative Session, and with that all of the bills previously enacted by the West Virginia Legislature are now officially law.  One of those bills now in effect is SB 622, relating generally to the regulation and control of financing elections. 

SB 622 brings substantial changes to the state’s campaign finance laws for candidates and political organizations alike.  Those involved in elections in West Virginia will have to navigate these changes in the lead up to the 2020 elections.  As such, this blog post looks at some of the key provisions to keep in mind as one navigates the political landscape moving forward.

Perhaps the most notable change to West Virginia election law is the raising of campaign contributions limits.  Prior to the enactment of SB 622, campaign contributions in the state were capped at $1,000 per candidate per election cycle.  Under the new law, an individual or political action committee can contribute up to $2,800 to a candidate per election cycle.  See generally W.Va. Code § 3-8-5c. 

Candidates may now also receive contributions for the general election prior to the completion of the primary election, provided that any such contributions are not expended until after the primary nomination is declared.  W.Va. Code § 3-8-5c(a)(1)(B).  Both corporations and membership organizations are prohibited from contributing to candidates directly.    

Contribution limits for political action committees (PACs), state party executive committees and caucus campaign committees have also been increased.  State parties and caucus campaign committees may now receive up to $10,000 in contributions from any one individual during a calendar year.  W.Va. Code § 3-8-5c(b).  PACs can now receive up to $5,000 in total aggregate contributions from an individual each particular election.  W.Va. Code § 3-8-5c(c).  SB 622 also removed the previously existing deadline for PAC formation, meaning that a PAC can now be created at any point prior to an election. 

Other notable changes made to state campaign finance regulations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Clarifying the definition of “political action committee” to include that the committee’s primary purpose is to support or oppose the nomination or election of specific candidates. W.Va. Code § 3-8-1a(28)
  • Modifying the campaign finance reporting schedule to require the filing of quarterly reports, along with pre-primary and pre-general disclosure reports. W.Va. Code § 3-8-5(b) 
  • Providing that political parties and caucus campaign committees may make limited coordinated expenditures with certain candidates. W.Va. Code § 3-8-9b
  • Allowing political committees to engage in joint fund-raising efforts with other political committees similar to federal law. W.Va. Code 3-8-9c
  • Clarifying that political organizations required to file federal reports in accordance with 52 U.S.C. §30104 are not exempt from complying with West Virginia’s disclosure requirements for electioneering communications or independent expenditures. W.Va. Code § 3-8-5(c)
  • Bringing “ballot issue” expenditures within the realm of regulated conduct. W.Va. Code § 3-8-1a(32)

These new provisions of law will be clarified even further through the legislative rulemaking process, as emergency rules are issued and legislative rules are finalized.

The Bowles Rice Campaign Finance & Election Law team regularly represents clients in campaign finance and election law matters at both the state and federal levels, and stands ready and willing to assist individuals and organizations looking to navigate the newly effective provisions of SB 622.