Letters to the Editor

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ELECTIONS: Facts clarified in judicial case

Letter by Steven E. Cohen, Charleston, W.Va. on April 4, 2012 at 12:43 pm | 2 Comments »
April 4, 2012 1:41 pm

Please allow me to clarify your April 4 editorial about Citizens United and judicial races.

The editorial references “an outrageously blatant piece of influence buying that played out in West Virginia,” noting “the CEO of the Massey Coal Co . . . donated $3 million to the campaign of (Supreme Court candidate) Brent Benjamin.

Actually that $3 million funded an independent expenditure campaign (West Virginia has $1,000 limits on campaign contributions to candidates). Yes, Benjamin won a seat on the court and, indeed, in one case over a $50 million contract dispute involving Massey, was one of the five unanimous votes by the court in Massey’s favor.

What you did not tell your readers is that Benjamin ruled on more than a dozen-and-a-half cases involving Massey and ruled against the coal company more than 80 percent of the time, with financial consequences against Massey of more than $300 million. So his one vote in a unanimous ruling on a $50 million case can hardly be characterized as “influence buying.”

And guess what? When the U.S. Supreme Court ordered that case be reheard without Benjamin, Massey still won the case.

(Cohen was deputy campaign manager in Benjamin’s run for the West Virginia Supreme Court.)

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