W.Va. chamber: Take attack ad off the air

John O'Brien Apr. 28, 2010, 8:00pm


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - Advertisements attacking W.Va. Sen. Erik Wells' voting record on whistleblower lawsuits are upsetting him and the state Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, West Virginia Chamber president Steve Roberts called for the advertisement, which claims Wells voted against a bill that would have strengthened whistleblower protections for miners, to be pulled from the airwaves.

"This ad is false. It misrepresents the facts about Senate Bill 166 and its impact on whistleblower protections, which have been in place in the state of West Virginia since 1971," Roberts said.

"It's our hope that the people running this ad will tell the truth or pull the ad from local television stations."

The ad is sponsored by several unions, including the United Mine Workers and the American Federation of Teachers. It is in support of Richie Robb, Wells' opponent this election.

The ad says Wells voted against the bill after the tragedy at Sago Mine in early 2006. Twelve miners died as a result of an explosion.

West Virginians experienced similar tragedy in March when 29 miners died in Raleigh County.

"The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's view on this is that the Upper Big Branch Mine accident should not be used for political gain. It is off limits," Roberts said.

"We hope that all the candidates will focus on the big issues facing our state."

The ad says, "Sometimes miners have to hide in the shadows to speak about unsafe conditions, like after the Upper Big Branch mine explosion.

"After the Sago tragedy, Sen. Erik Wells voted against giving whistleblower protection to miners who speak up against unsafe conditions.

"Now, more than ever, we need a senator who will stand up for miner safety."

Wells told the Charleston Daily Mail that the proposed bill did nothing to strengthen whistleblower protections that were already in place, while the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association said it would've cleared up some ambiguities.

Wells is running a new ad where he displays the minutes for the bill, which died in committee in 2008, the report adds.

"They prove the union leaders didn't even bother to show up and support the bill themselves," Wells says in the ad.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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