The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 9, 2013

Bill to ban fundraisers during session falls flat

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — Senate Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso agrees that it sends a poor message out to the districts when lawmakers conduct fundraisers while in session.

Yet, a bill that would ban the practice failed to generate much interest, and this is one reason why he didn’t run it in his committee, Prezioso said Monday.

Prezioso let the bill, authored by Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, die on the advice of his committee’s attorney and the fact the measure generated little interest.

“We were told it’s an unfair playing field,” he said.

“Our attorney told us that if you’re not in the Legislature, you could actually go out and have a fund-raiser during session. That certainly puts people at odds.”

Prezioso said he was advised that candidates for the Legislature could raise cash while lawmakers were in session, although Green said a provision of his bill would have barred anyone from having fund-raisers during the 60-day session.

Besides, the finance chairman said, there is a legal question that clouded the proposed legislation.

“I don’t know how you can tell people that you can’t (raise money),” he said.

“I think, constitutionally, if people want to go out and raise money and run for office, that’s their freedom to do that.”

Prezioso said he agreed with Green’s contention that lawmakers are transmitting poor signals by engaging in fund-raisers while in session.

“Certainly, it sends a bad message,” he said.

“You’re supposed to be down here working and you’re having fund raisers, but you should have that option.”

At times, however, he said, a lawmaker “gets in a bind and has to raise more money.”

“I would certainly advise legislators not to do it because it does send a bad message,” the finance chairman said.

“But that wasn’t high on our priority list.”

Green said his measure was intended to ban fund-raising by any legislative candidate, not solely the incumbents, while the Legislature is in session.

“I was hopeful that this year it would get a little traction,” said Green, who first submitted the bill a year ago.

“It passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s an uphill battle any time you take on new ideas and new approaches down here on how we do things. It’s going to take a while. Hopefully, next year, the third year is the charm. Maybe. We’ll see what happens.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com