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PACs spend more than $5.2 million

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Non-candidates have devoted more than $5.2 million so far toward ads seeking to influence West Virginia races, with pro-Republican groups accounting for nearly three fourths of that election spending, according to the latest filings with the Secretary of State and Federal Election Commission. The state attorney general's race has attracted the largest share, more than $2.1 million of the total. Most of that spending, nearly $1.6 million, has fueled a TV ad from the Center for Individual Freedom faulting Attorney General Darrell McGraw for not joining the unsuccessful court challenge of the federal health-care overhaul.

The Alexandria, Va., group has sought to weigh in on West Virginia races before. It has sued over the state's attempts to require greater disclosure of ads that run close to elections or appear to advocate for or against a candidate. Federal judges have repeatedly agreed with the center that the election ad rules were too vague to pass constitutional muster, and blocked or limited them as a result.

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse spent $37,371 last month targeting McGraw, mostly via radio. But pro-McGraw groups are funding ads as well. A group backed by the Democratic Attorneys General Association reported spending $345,800 on a TV spot targeting his Republican foe, Patrick Morrisey.

Among other points, the Mountaineer Committee for Justice & Fairness seeks to remind voters that Morrisey has not practiced law in the state and received his West Virginia law license just days before becoming a candidate. An Eastern Panhandle resident, Morrisey is a member of a law firm in nearby Washington, D.C., and previously worked on Capitol Hill as a GOP aide.

Another group, Standing Up for West Virginia, announced in a Friday filing that it was spending $104,560 on a pro-McGraw TV ad. Most of that money came from Vangusta Inc., a corporation set up in July by Roger Forman, a veteran civil liberties lawyer. Forman declined to comment on Vangusta or the contents of the as-yet-unaired ad.

"I'm a strong supporter and friend of Judge McGraw,'' Forman said Monday, referring to the incumbent Democrat by his nickname.

Two national GOP committees, meanwhile, have each spent nearly $1 million targeting other Democrats. The Republican Governors Association has so far bankrolled three attack ads against Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, while the National Republican Congressional Committee has hit 3rd District U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall in TV spots as well.

Tomblin and Rahall's GOP challengers also have fielded outside attacks. A group aligned with the Democratic Governors Association has aired two TV ads against Republican Bill Maloney, spending at least $365,000. The House Majority political action committee has reported spending $414,474 to go after state legislator Rick Snuffer, Rahall's opponent, on TV.

Filings posted Monday from state GOP party PACs reported spending totaling $53,000 on advertising for party legislative candidates or against their Democratic rivals. But two labor groups, the West Virginia AFL-CIO and the state Building & Construction Trades, have spent $127,000 this month in support of Democrats running for the state Senate and House of Delegates.

The building trades PAC also contributed $20,000 toward Standing Up for West Virginia. Other non-candidate spending includes at least $1,000 from the state Republican Party to aid a TV ad targeting state Sen. Walt Helmick, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner.


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