GOP Files Complaint Over Robocalls

The West Virginia Republican Party filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office Tuesday alleging state Democratic leaders violated election laws with a recent automated call effort.

Republicans across West Virginia received “robocalls” Sunday telling them GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney was attacking their local Republican delegate.

“Call Bill Maloney, and tell him he doesn’t know what is good for West Virginia,” the caller says. “Tell him not to throw your legislators under the bus for his own personal gain.”

The West Virginia Democrat Party has acknowledged placing the calls, which contained no information to identify who was making the calls.

The complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office was filed by Robert Cornelius, political coordinator for the West Virginia Republican Party. It lists as defendants the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee; state Democrat Party Chairman Larry Puccio; and Derek Scarbro, executive director for the state Democrat Party.

The complaint alleges a violation of West Virginia code by the Democratic Party when it failed to disclose who was making the calls. It seeks a full investigation in the case, as well as prosecution of anyone found guilty and a phone apology to those called Sunday.

Scarbro said the Democrat party acted according to law.

“We got (legal) verification that a disclaimer was not required. We have been told it was not necessary,” he said. “We were not expressly advocating anyone’s election or defeat …

Scarbro pointed to recent advertising paid for by the Republican Governor’s Association on behalf of Maloney. One ad criticizes Maloney’s Democrat opponent, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, for pushing legislation this year – Senate Bill 469 – to pay down the other post-employment benefits, or OPEB, debt. A second ad criticizes Tomblin for “raising taxes on coal” to generate revenue to clean up abandoned mine sites in SB 579.

Both pieces of legislation were supported by the majority of Republicans in the West Virginia Legislature, and Scarbro said the party wanted Republicans to know that.

“We are definitely not hiding from this. We want people to know about it. We don’t think a Republican organization can criticize a Democratic governor for legislation their own Republican legislators voted for. …

“That’s why we made these calls,” he continued. “The Republican Party can’t attack Gov. Tomblin for legislation their own legislators voted for. They’re either being hypocritical or throwing their own legislators under the bus.”

The Maloney campaign has sent a letter to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant asking her to investigate the matter.

Chris Stadelman, spokesman for Tomblin, said the Tomblin campaign was not involved with the automated calls.

“We didn’t have anything to do with them,” he said.