The Legislature hereby finds and declares that every candidate for public office in this state should follow the basic principles of decency, honesty and fairness in the course of their campaign practices.
The Legislature hereby further declares that the code of fair campaign practices, as contained in this article, is a standard to which all candidates for public office should aspire and is a guideline for voters to determine fair play in the conduct of campaigns for public office.
It is the further goal of the Legislature that every candidate for public office in this state will voluntarily subscribe and adhere to the code of campaign practices.
For purposes of this article:
(a) "Campaign advertising or communication" means a communication authorized by a candidate or a candidate's committee for the purpose of advocating the nomination, election or defeat of a candidate;
(b) "Candidate for public office" means an individual who has filed a precandidacy statement pursuant to the provisions of section five-e, article eight of this chapter, has qualified to have his or her name listed on the ballot of any election, or who has declared his or her intention to seek nomination or election through a petition or write-in procedure for any state, regional, county, municipal or district office which is to be filled at an election;
(c) "Code" means the code of fair campaign practices as set forth in this article;
(d) "Commission" means the state election commission created pursuant to the provisions of article one-a of this chapter; and
(e) "Political committee" means all of those persons and entities required to keep accounts and file financial statements pursuant to the provisions of section five, article eight of this chapter.
In addition to the powers and duties of the commission as prescribed in section five, article one-a of this chapter, the commission has:
(a) The power to issue advisory opinions on whether an action or proposed action of a subscribing candidate violates the code of fair campaign practices;
(b) The duty to prepare and distribute copies of the code of fair campaign practices to voters, circuit clerks, county clerks and other election officials;
(c) The duty to receive, investigate and act on complaints or other information concerning noncompliance with the code by candidates for public office who subscribe to the code; and
(d) The duty to make public the name and identity of candidates subscribing to the code and the findings of compliance or noncompliance with the code upon the conclusion of a hearing conducted pursuant to section four of this article.
If a majority of the commission determines that there is a reasonable likelihood that a candidate for public office who subscribes to the code of fair campaign practices has violated a provision of the code, then the commission shall inform the candidate in writing and notify the candidate in writing that the candidate has ten days from receipt of the notice to request a hearing. If the candidate requests a hearing, then one shall be scheduled within ten days after such request. Said hearing may be continued only for good cause shown. If a majority of the commission determines, based upon clear and convincing evidence, after a hearing or after a candidate has declined to request a hearing, that such candidate has violated a provision of the code, the commission may issue a public opinion stating the candidate has committed a violation of the code. If the commission does not find by clear and convincing evidence that a subscribing candidate has violated a provision of the code, then the commission shall issue a public statement that the candidate has not violated the code. Said statement shall be issued on the same day of the hearing.
At the time an individual files his or her precandidacy statement, certificate of announcement, nominating petition, and other paper evidencing an intention to be a candidate for public office, or when an individual files the statement of organization of a political committee, the circuit clerk, county clerk or Secretary of State receiving such filing shall furnish the individual with a form containing the text of the code of fair campaign practices which shall read as follows:
CODE OF FAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICES
I SHALL CONDUCT this campaign openly and publicly, discussing the issues as I see them, presenting positions and policies with sincerity and frankness, and criticizing without fear or favor the record and policies of candidates or political parties which merit such criticism.
I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT the use of character defamation, whispering campaigns, libel, slander or scurrilous attacks on any candidate or his or her personal family life.
I SHALL CONDEMN the use of campaign advertising or communication of any sort which misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies the facts regarding any candidate or issue raised in my campaign.
I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT any appeal to negative prejudice based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability or age.
I SHALL NOT USE OR PERMIT any dishonest or unethical practice which tends to corrupt or undermine our system of free elections, or which hampers or prevents the full and free expression of the will of the voters including acts intended to hinder, prevent, or discourage any eligible person from registering to vote, or from voting, or which is intended to affect voting through the buying of influence or votes.
I SHALL NOT COERCE election help or campaign contributions for myself or my committee or for any other candidate or any ballot issue from my employees or from any person under my authority, influence or control.
I SHALL IMMEDIATELY AND PUBLICLY REPUDIATE support on behalf of or in opposition to any candidacy deriving from any individual or group which resorts to the methods and tactics which I condemn. I shall accept responsibility to take firm action against any subordinate or associate who violates any provisions of this code or the laws governing elections.
I PERSONALLY SUPPORT a limit on campaign expenditures that when reasonable, sufficient and fairly applied, does not limit or restrict the expression of ideas of the candidate or others on behalf of the candidate, but instead challenges individuals to engage in open dialogue on the issues rather than merely to purchase the excessive repetition of images and slogans.
ACCORDINGLY, IF I AM A CANDIDATE for one of the offices listed below, I will, in conjunction with the committee or committees organized on my behalf, adhere to the following limitations on campaign spending specified for the office I seek:
Governor 1,000,000 1,000,000
Constitutional Officers 150,000 150,000
Supreme Court of Appeals 150,000 150,000
State Senate 50,000 50,000
House of Delegates 25,000 25,000
Circuit Judge 50,000 50,000
Expenditures which do not exceed the limits designated for the primary election may not be added to the limits for the general election.
I SHALL DEFEND AND UPHOLD the right of every qualified voter to full and equal participation in the electoral process.
I, the undersigned, a candidate for election to public office in the State of West Virginia, or the chairperson of a political committee supporting one or more candidates for election, hereby voluntarily endorse, subscribe to, and solemnly pledge myself to conduct this campaign in accordance with the above principles and practices. I understand that subscription and adherence to the code is voluntary.
Candidate for/Committee Name Address and City
The Secretary of State in consultation with the election commission, shall prescribe the forms containing the text of the code and shall furnish the forms to the circuit clerks, county clerks and municipal clerks or recorders in quantities and at times requested by the clerks.
The officer receiving the filing shall accept, at all times prior to the election, all completed forms evidencing subscription to the code.
Forms filed with the circuit clerk shall be immediately forwarded to the county clerk. The county clerk, Secretary of State, and municipal recorder or clerk shall retain such forms filed with them for public inspection until one hundred eighty days after the general election.
Subscription to and adherence to the provisions of the code set forth in this article is voluntary and in no event may any person be required to subscribe to, adhere to or endorse the code.
In the event that an opponent to a subscribing candidate exceeds the voluntary campaign spending limitations set forth in section five of this article, the subscribing candidate who has not exceeded the spending limitations shall be automatically released from that portion of the code establishing the campaign spending limitations, and the commission shall make public the fact of such release.
The commission may from time to time increase the voluntary campaign spending limitations established in this article pursuant to legislative rule promulgated pursuant to the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.