West Virginia Democratic Candidate Hauled From Legislative Hearing for Listing Off Corporate Donors to Fossil Fuel-Friendly Lawmakers

In West Virginia, a Democratic candidate for state House is silenced in the capitol for reading off names of corporate campaign donors.

A packed House Chamber takes in Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's speech, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in Charleston, W.Va., during the State of the State address. (AP Photo/Howie McCormick)
A packed House Chamber on Jan. 12, 2011, in Charleston, W.Va. Photo: Howie McCormick/AP

Lissa Lucas is a Democrat running for a state House seat in West Virginia’s District 7. Part of her campaign’s goal is to challenge the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry on the state’s politics.

So in the second week of February, when the legislature held public hearings on House Bill 4268 — which would allow for the drilling on properties with multiple owners if 75 percent, rather than all, of the owners enter into a lease — Lucas came to voice her opposition to the legislation, believing it to undermine the rights of property owners.

And to the chagrin of the West Virginia House of Delegates, she came bearing receipts.

She stood on the floor and read off corporate donors to the legislators moving the legislation — going through the gamut of fossil fuel companies dominant in West Virginia, from Dominion to FirstEnergy.

Republican Delegate John Shott, who was overseeing the hearing, took offense at Lucas’s reading of publicly available campaign finance data, equating it to a personal attack.

“Miss Lucas, we ask no personal comments be made,” he told her over his microphone.

“This is not personal comments,” she replied.

“It is a personal comment and I’m gonna call you out of order if you talk about individuals on the committee. So if you would just address the bill. If not, I’ll ask you to please step down,” he said to her.

She continued to list off donors, her microphone was cut off, and legislative security was called to remove her from the chamber. Watch it below:

In an interview with The Intercept, Lucas explained that she traveled to the capitol from the northern part of the state the day before the hearing to make sure she could say her piece.

“I got there really early on the morning, it’s a long drive, I drove to my friend’s house and stayed overnight at her house. Because I was told that sometimes, you know, there’s not enough time for everyone to speak because the industry will send people to take all the slots. So I got there really early and then I sat outside in the cold and sat on the concrete until they opened the doors, and then I got to the chambers really early,” she said.

She marveled at the idea that simply stating campaign finance data is equivalent to a personal attack.

“They said, No personal attacks. Which is a sensible rule to me — you don’t want someone going up there and calling people names,” she told The Intercept. “Delegate Shott construed this public campaign finance information from the representatives’ own campaign finance reporting as personal attacks. And if they feel attacked by mentioning their donors, to me, they just shouldn’t be taking that money.”

Lucas emphasized that the chamber security guards who removed her were polite and cordial, and she has no ill will toward them. But she wonders if Shott’s demand for a campaign donor safe space actually backfired on him.

“I think Delegate Shott made a bad call because if I had just read those donor — again it’s not like new information, it’s all out there,” she said. “It’s not something secret that I came up with. If I had just read that off possibly in the Charleston Gazette, they would have said several speakers spoke and one spoke about campaign finances. … He brought so much more attention to it by having me thrown out than he could have if he had read off the list of donors himself.”

As of this writing, the video of Lucas being ejected has over 100,000 views on Facebook.

Top photo: A packed House Chamber on Jan. 12, 2011, in Charleston, W.Va.

Join The Conversation