Citizens United: West Virginia’s response


The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 states’ election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of these states is doing to respond to the highly-contested ruling. Today we’re onto our sixth state, West Virginia:

State: West Virginia
Bill: HB 4647
Passed: Yes

After repealing a law prohibiting independent expenditures by corporations, West Virginia has enacted a series of disclosure requirements for any organization that runs an advertisement advocating the election or defeat of any candidate.
West Virginia’s response to Citizens United is very similar to South Dakota’s. Both put into law a series of disclosure requirements that force corporations to submit a form stating which candidate they are supporting or opposing and how much money was spent on the advertisement. Neither state went as far as prohibiting foreign companies from making independent expenditures or forcing nonprofits to disclose their funders, as some states did.
The statements will be filed electronically within 48 hours of the expenditure being made. The document will be available to the public within 24 hours of the West Virginia Secretary of State receiving it and posted to the state’s website. The process is already in place and documents dating back to 2006 can be found online now.