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TV Ad Spending Rises in West Virginia Supreme Court Race

April 2, 2016

 TV Ad Spending Rises in West Virginia Supreme Court Race

Candidates also make use of public campaign financing   


Contact: Laurie Kinney, lkinney@justiceatstake.org, (202) 588-9454; cell (571) 882-3615

WASHINGTON, DC,  April 2  – With more than a month to go before Election Day on May 10, two candidates in West Virginia’s five-way race for a single Supreme Court of Appeals seat have now purchased television ad contracts worth a combined total of at least $148,870, according to an analysis of public FCC records by Justice at Stake.  

The records show that ad contracts purchased by the campaign of former state legislator William “Bill” Wooton total at least $110,140.  Ad contracts purchased by the incumbent in the race, Justice Brent Benjamin, total at least $38,730.  No ad contracts have yet been recorded for three other candidates vying for the seat: attorney Wayne King, former state Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Jr., and attorney Beth Walker.  Ad totals were current as of 4 p.m. ET on April 1.

Candidates have also filed their latest campaign finance disclosure reports, due April 1, indicating that two candidates, Wooton and Benjamin, have received public financing for their campaigns under the state’s public financing program.  According to the state’s disclosure website:

  • Benjamin has reported raising a total of $534,050, including $483,489 in public funding. 
  • Wooton has reported raising a total of $545,725.99, including $475,000 in public funding.
  • Walker has reported raising a total of $170,075.66, and reports a loan of $250,000 from her husband, Michael Walker, to her campaign.
  • McGraw has reported raising a total of $52,866.92, and reported loaning his campaign $1,360, the cost of a filing fee.
  • King's report had not yet been uploaded to the state disclosure site. 

“So far, the tone of campaign ads in West Virginia’s Supreme Court race has been constructive and we’ve seen no sign of outside spending by special interests,” said Susan Liss, Executive Director of Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for fair courts and tracks judicial election spending. “The state deserves credit for reforms it has put in place to help make this possible, and we hope that these positive trends continue all the way through Election Day.”  

"Last week’s orders by the State Supreme Court upholding the State Election Commission's decision to award public financing to Brent Benjamin and Bill Wooton is good news for the future of the public financing program," said Julie Archer, Project Manager with WV Citizen Action Group and a co-coordinator of WV Citizens for Clean Elections.  "Two candidates participating may be a sign that running for the high court on public financing is the new norm." 

"In previous elections, West Virginia gained notoriety for negative attack ads.  Thankfully our Supreme Court elections, since implementing this important reform, haven't been contentious or the target of huge outside spending," Archer added. "We hope this trend continues." 

Candidates’ campaign filings suggest that more advertising may be on the way: Justice Benjamin notes expenditures of over $260,000 for unspecified “media buys” and over $57,000 for a media buy with WV Radio Corp.  Walker’s disclosure lists a $20,000 expenditure for unspecified “advertising and consulting.” 

The most expensive state Supreme Court election in West Virginia took place in 2004, when total costs were over $6 million in a race for one seat.  Justice Benjamin was elected in that race and is running for reelection this year.


The positions and policies of Justice at Stake publications and campaign partners are their own, and do not necessarily reflect those of other campaign partners or board members.
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