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Editorial

Gregory’s Web – February 5, 2023

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Ron Gregory Political Columnist - WV Statewide News

If one reads the introduction

to House Bill 3187, it would be difficult to oppose it. And it’s frankly amazing that after years of expressing concerns, many in politics have not publicly lamented that in the age of jet speed computer technology we allow a requirement for electronic truth to lag so far behind.

Establishing an equal social media presence for all is essentially what Cabell Republican Delegate Daniel Linville’s House Bill 3187 does. Linville is the lead sponsor with several others listed as co-sponsors.

Linville’s bill correctly

recognizes the growing proliferation of social media into modern election technology and processes.

The new section of law is related to requirements imposed on social media companies to “prevent corruption and provide transparency of election-related content made available on social media websites.” That’s a goal many have advocated since social media became widely popular.

Further, the new law provides

“for equal opportunities for all candidates and political parties to speak without policy or partisan-based censorship; and to uphold the integrity of

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elections by ensuring election-related content hosted, posted, and made available on social media websites is not monetized or otherwise used or manipulated for nefarious purposes.”

The latter is a mouthful but it underscores constant complaints that one does not have to be guilty of a crime to be convicted in the court of public opinion.

Most of those associated with

elections, particularly during the past decade, realize how easy it is for someone to toss out a false rumor on social media, see it gain “witnesses” who corroborate the “facts,” and reach near universal acceptance as truth when it absolutely isn’t. It happens too often.

While newspapers are subject

 to libel laws and electronic media outlets (essentially television and radio) are governed by state and federal fairness agencies, nobody has forced the truth on Cousin Joe’s anonymous blog spot on the Internet.

Until now..

Even if weak, some sort of vetting process takes place before an accusation is published in print or announced on television and radio. While far from perfect, legal authorities have always at least tried to hold print and electronic news media accountable.

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In many cases, there is no real

“fact-checking” of any kind before an item is posted on social media. When a social media company expresses views of one candidate over another, or one party over another, it has a value. They sell ads.

This law, which has the support of Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner, is the initial step in cleaning up what has become a mess.

The bill effectively makes Warner’s Secretary office the clearinghouse for equal access in social media posts. It also ensures that the social media company itself puts out correct information about dates of elections, when you can register to vote, and when early voting is open.

The Chief Election Officer (Secretary of State) is in charge of “dissemination of election content; prohibition on untraceable messaging originated by social media platforms; record maintenance; prohibition of monetization of election content; prohibition of modifying visibility of election information based on type of content; (and) due process

 requirements for restriction of access to social media platforms.” It sets civil penalties for those who disobey the law.

“This section may be cited as

the ‘Social Media Integrity and Anti-Corruption in Elections Act’” and aptly so. And may I add, “it’s about time”?

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The legislation does what any logical, fair-thinking person would want it to do.

It demands “compliance with

the state’s campaign finance laws when the platform’s actions bestow value for one candidate or political party over that of another candidate or political party; and, (2) An equal opportunity for all candidates appearing on West Virginia ballots to appear in the social media platform.”

If a candidate benefits from the actions of a social media platform, that must be listed as a campaign contribution if others are charged for the same service. And all candidates and causes must be given the same access availability to spread their message. Seems fair and simple enough to me.

* * * * * *

Unlike some current and proposed legislation, this bill puts teeth in the law by proposing penalties for intentional non-compliance. It is not like the state’s Freedom of Information Act that has all the teeth of a goldfish, for example. Enforcement of any law is directly related to its effectiveness. This social media reform should be effective indeed. 

In this case, the intent to force fairness is clear.

“Between 60 days from any primary, general or special statewide or federal election and the date the election is certified, a social media platform that terminates, suspends, or otherwise restricts access of a candidate, party, or political party, shall give contemporaneous written notice to the affected

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 person or party and to the State Election Commission of the platform’s intended action.” In other words, your candidacy cannot be removed from public view just because the platform administrator is for a different candidate.

Is the bill perfect? Probably

not and experiencing it following passage will be the true test of its worth. From here, it looks like a great place to start – and maybe even finish. A salute to Linville for his stewardship thus far.

* * * * * *

Linville has been rumored for

 some time to be considering a run for Secretary of State himself in 2024.

That gossip became widespread when he penned an op-ed about the office at near the time Warner announced he would not be a re-election candidate but will run instead for Governor in 2024.

Now, this social media bill will add to Linville’s credentials in the election field. That’s very crucial for a Secretary of State.

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* * * * * *

West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney, well known for his negative campaign tactics, was pretty innocent when he recently talked with a reporter about his  upcoming race against Manchin.

“In campaigns people personally attack me,” insisted the innocent-sounding Mooney. He says he likes to discuss “only the issues.” Within a couple days of being re-elected Mooney announced he’s running for Manchin’s seat.

Mooney spent virtually the entire 2022 primary campaign bad-mouthing and calling opponent Congressman David McKinley a RINO (Republican In Name Only). That, combined with Trump’s endorsement, led Mooney to a landslide win.

He only talks issues, huh?

The magic of a Trump endorsement was apparent in a district Republican legislators thought they had designed for an easy McKinley victory.

The district was created because of the state’s perpetual loss of population (no, it’s not growing as ever-glowing Governor Justice likes to report). We consolidated from three congressional districts to two.

Let me assure you that Mooney will spend a lot more campaign time attacking Manchin as a “tax and spend liberal” than he will defending his own ultra conservative voting record.

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Mooney has already secured Trump’s endorsement. Presumably it will carry over to the Senate battle with Manchin.

“Whether we’re talking about

 securing the border or promoting our domestic energy supply. We’re going to need someone like Alex Mooney in the Senate,” said Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale, who attended a Mooney fundraiser in DC recently. 

Every questionable vote or action by Manchin over the years will be held up for scrutiny by the Mooney campaign. Rosendale was just the first in what will be a parade of arch conservatives testifying that Mooney represents “West Virginia values” while they insist Manchin runs with the far leftist crowd.

If Mooney represents West Virginia values, one wonders where he learned them. Manchin has that on Mooney: he’s a West Virginia native through and through.

It would be difficult for Mooney

 to say he’s intimately familiar with Charleston since his visits here could be counted on two hands or maybe one. And he was the capital city’s Congressman! 

* * * * * *

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There were those waiting for

  •  Warner to announce he is running for Governor despite our having reported it here for weeks.

Now, some are awaiting political announcements that we’ve also already discussed here.

Justice is running for U.S. Senate in 2024. Period. He thinks he will knock Manchin off easier than anyone else can. Here’s a further tip: Manchin beats whoever the GOP nominates.

Manchin is running for re-election. Leaving Washington and heading home to run for governor again is simply not in the play book.

Further evidence that Manchin will not run for Governor came recently when ace political consultant Larry Puccio admitted he’s committed to Moore Capito for Governor in 2024.

Regardless of what you’ve heard elsewhere, Puccio is still Manchin’s most loyal political friend. He would not be with Capito now if Manchin was a possible Governor candidate in two years. That decision by Puccio would be on hold. 

* * * * * *

It’s getting less likely that two Republican

board of public works members will seek other offices in 2024.

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When we start with the premise that all would LIKE to be governor, you must then evaluate possible outcomes.

Both Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt and Auditor J.B. McCuskey would like to move on up to the governor’s residence.

Both have tested the waters for governor and found it lukewarm at best.

Casting aside philosophies about term limits, both are heavy favorites to be re-elected. They are long shots at best for governor in 2024.

Either or both should probably

do the politically expedient thing and file for re-election.

That leaves Warner and Morrisey running for Governor and Treasurer Riley Moore already running for congress.

* * * * * * 

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If Warner, Capito and Morrisey

 all seek the governorship, it will be a classic political battle where 35% could win.

In this Trump red state, even

 a weakened Republican will be the favorite in November to hold the chair.

The question is whether Trump might endorse auto dealer Chris Miller for governor, hoping to secure his mom, Congresswoman Carol Miller’s support for the Trump legislative agenda if Trump is re-elected. Of course, the same scenario holds true for gubernatorial candidate Delegate Moore Capito whose mom is a U.S. Senator.

Justice will spend whatever it takes to win the GOP Senate nod only to lose to Manchin in the fall.

* * * * * *

If reasonably strong Republican candidates step forward they can retain control of the board of public works. 

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As noted, Linville would be

a formidable candidate for secretary of state, Auditor or Treasurer. My long time friend Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood would be tough to beat for Secretary of State as well.

Kanawha State Senator Mark Hunt should be seriously considered for Attorney General or other statewide offices. And former Kanawha Delegate Dianna Graves would be a great statewide option.

Obviously, there are others

qualified and anticipating making a run.

As I’ve been mentioning, enthusiasm for Democrats is at a low ebb. Few newly-elected statewide or county officials makes the “farm system” cut very low.

I keep mentioning it, but it’s awesome to drive into a southern coalfield county and realize all the new faces at the courthouse are Republicans.

(Contact Ron Gregory at 304-533-5185; ronjoegregory@gmail.com; or PO Box 20297, Charleston, WV 25362.

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  • Ron Gregory

    From Mayor of Glenville at age 26 to Assistant Mayor of Charleston, management of various public entities, and countless political races in West Virginia – Ron Gregory is the most noted political correspondent in the state. View all posts

From Mayor of Glenville at age 26 to Assistant Mayor of Charleston, management of various public entities, and countless political races in West Virginia - Ron Gregory is the most noted political correspondent in the state.