West Virginia Woman Dragged From Legislative Hearing On Drilling Bill After Listing Oil and Gas Donations To The Members

lissaWe recently saw a national outcry over a teacher dragged from a school board meeting for raising concerns over school policies.  Now, the West Virginia House of Delegates is under scrutiny for the treatment of a woman, Lissa Lucas, who appeared at a hearing over a drilling bill and attempted to list the contributions accepted by both Democrats and Republicans from the gas and oil industries.  She also raised an event the night before where the members wined and dined with industry lobbyists.  She was forciably removed from the hearing after Chairman, John Shott (R-Mercer) ruled her comments as non-germane and personal. Many voters would likely disagree and say that the extent of corporate-related money is not relevant to the legislation.


Lucas is going to challenge one of the members and traveled the 100 miles from her home in Cairo, West Virginia to testify against an oil and gas industry sponsored bill (HB 4268). The bill is being pushed by oil and gas companies and would allow companies to drill on minority mineral owners’ land without their consent.

She walked up to the podium and noted that  “the people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry. And the people who are going to be voting on this bill are often also paid by the industry,” Lucas said.

She added a reference tothe Whiskey, Wine and Policy Winter Legislative Reception at the Charleston Marriott Hotel on February 7 sponsored by the Shale Energy Alliance: “I have to keep this short, because the public only gets a minute and 45 seconds while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whiskey and wine and talk for hours to the delegates.”

shott_johnThat was it. When she started to list the campaign money going to the members, Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) cut her off:  “Miss Lucas, we ask that no personal comments be made.”

Lucas insisted that “This is not a personal comment,” but Shott said “It is a personal comment and I am going to call you out of order if you are talking about individuals on the committee. If you would, just address the bill. If not, I would ask you to just step down.”

Lucas continued with a reference to her opponent Delegate Jason Harshbarger (R-7):  “About 40 percent of his money (campaign contributions) comes from the oil and natural gas industry,” Lucas said.

She was then dragged off.

There is a point in barring personal attacks, particularly from people who are political opponents.  However, corporate influence on a bill would seem germane to the evaluation of the need and purpose of the legislation.  This bill after all would overrule West Virginians on drilling operations.


Lucas could sue for the denial of her free speech rights.  Courts tend to be reluctant to micromanage such hearings and could well side with the legislators but a credible challenge could be made.

In 1972, the Supreme Court articulated the standard for content-neutral restrictions in  Grayned v. The City of Rockford: “The crucial question is whether the manner of expression is basically incompatible with the normal activity of a particular place at a particular time.” It is certainly responsible to restrict discussion to the merits of the legislation at issue and a court could agree that the motivations of the members is not relevant to the specific merits of the proposal. There is however an argument that alleged corporate influence is germane and, as stated in  Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, such limitations are valid provided that they are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.”

This could make for an interesting challenge, though the legislative committee has the edge going in.  The members could end up winning the judge and losing the voters in the court of public opinion.

What do you think?





77 thoughts on “West Virginia Woman Dragged From Legislative Hearing On Drilling Bill After Listing Oil and Gas Donations To The Members”

  1. I’m just glad that energy companies only make donations to GOP candidates. I’m glad Obama did not accept Solyndra solar panel campaign donations, then grant $535B to Solyndra, who then promptly went bankrupt.

    /sarc off

  2. The Pres. of the University of Cincinnati about White supremacist, Richard Spenser’s lawsuit against the school, “It is my sincerest hope that we will come away from this decidedly stronger as an academic and humanitarian community. And in so doing, we will fulfill the essential promise and very purpose of our university community- to change the world for the better- today, tomorrow and together.”

    1. Maybe he forgot to type [ir]–as in not irrelevant. Sometimes people use the double negation for emphasis.

  3. There’s no real chance that she could successfully sue. There’s very good reason to avoid all personal comment, including ones germane to the discussion: because that would require giving time to rebuttal, and that just isn’t the forum. She can make her point, and even say that it affects members generally, without naming specific people.

    1. Our democracy is threatened, not by nameless people but, by the spending of specific individuals, the organizations they fund, and corporations, i.e. the Koch’s, Mercer’s, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, Art Pope, Bill Gates, Uihlein, Crown, Eli Broad, the hedge funds of DFER, etc.

      1. Linda – you conveniently forget Soros, Gates, Weinstein, etc. Your argument is always one-sided. You have to get past the Correct the Record talking points.

      2. In the last national election, Linda voted with the Koch Bros, Iraq war monger in Chief Bill Kristol, George Will, the Bush Krime Syndikat, John Kasich, Mitt Romney, and more of their ilk.

        Take a bow, Linda!

  4. West Virginia Woman Dragged From Legislative Hearing On Drilling Bill After Listing Oil and Gas Donations To The Members

    Democracy in action.

    How dare Lissa Lucas have the temerity to publicly disclose the bribes the not so honourable members of the West Virginia House of Delegates have allowed to corrupt the so-called democratic process.

    The worthless petty tyrants comprising the West Virginia House of Delegates have exposed themselves as bought and paid for lickspittles who happily sellout their constituents to the highest bidding lobbyist.

    What do you think?

    The pliably supine turd stains comprising West Virginia’s House of Delegates have completely disgraced themselves.

    1. Few Koch-connected groups disclose donors. But, identified or not, the Koch’s are funding candidates in W.V. in order to concentrate the wealth of the richest 0.1%.
      ALEC-crafted laws are destroying the middle class in states like W.Va., courtesy of the Koch’s.

    2. On the one hand, Linda may still win the argument and lose her legal case.

      OTOH, she could have gotten her point across with anonymous pronouns for the legislators such as A, B, C, etc.

  5. Now might be a good time to restate my four rules of power. Not authority but power. See if you can guess which one(s) Lissa violated:

    1. Power begets other power.
    2. Power is always pragmatic.
    3. Power avoids exhaustive hypotheses.
    4. Power protects other power.

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