Third-Party Groups Spending Millions on GOP Primary for West Virginia Governor

Gun Rights

CHARLESTON — Approximately $14 million has been spent since the beginning of 2024 by third-party independent expenditure groups to support Republican candidates for governor of West Virginia and attack others.

A review of independent expenditure reports filed with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office found that more than $14.7 million has been spent in this year’s competitive GOP primary, with the biggest spenders being groups supporting Attorney General Patrick Morrisey while attacking his top opponents, and a group led by the father of Huntington businessman Chris Miller that has relentlessly attacked Morrisey.

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Black Bear PAC has spent more than $4.1 million since the end of April to promote Morrisey and attack Miller and former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Moore Capito, including major TV ad buys in key West Virginia media markets. Black Bear PAC’s spending since the beginning of January is approximately $10 million.

Black Bear PAC ‘s senior advisor is Scott Will, a former campaign manager for Morrisey’s first run for attorney general in 2012.

Will, a partner with Attorney General Strategies, also is a former executive director for the Republican Attorney General’s Association.

Both Black Bear PAC and the Club for Growth, a national conservative public policy advocacy organization, endorsed Morrisey in April 2023 for the Republican nomination for governor to succeed the term-limited Gov. Jim Justice, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2024.

In a press release at the time, both PACs said they had already raised $5 million to support Morrisey with a goal to spend more than $10 million. In March 2023, Club for Growth Action donated $2.1 million to Black Bear PAC. According to Black Bear PAC’s April quarterly campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission, Club for Growth Action dumped another $1.1 million in Black Bear PAC between January and March.

Other groups supporting Morrisey include Americans for Prosperity, which has spent nearly $700,000 since January; the Gun Owners of America, which spent $75,500; Patriotic Veterans Inc., which spent $2,908, and the NRA Political Victory Fund, which spent $2,908.

West Virginia Forward, an independent expenditure committee opposing Morrisey, spent more than $2.3 million since the beginning of the year, with $797,971 spent since the end of April. Team West Virginia is chaired by Matt F. Miller, Chris Miller’s father and husband of U.S. Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va.

Team West Virginia, an independent expenditure committee supporting Capito, spent more than $1.7 million in the race since January. The group received $500,000 in February from Capito for West Virginia, the federal campaign committee for U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the mother of Moore Capito.

According to State Code, an independent expenditure is made by a person, a political action committee, a corporation or executive committee that advocates for or against a specific candidate. Independent expenditure committees are not allowed to coordinate with other candidates or committees or can they donate to candidates. No limits are on how much these committees are allowed to receive through campaign contributions, though the committees have additional reporting requirements.

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