Campaign Finance Reform - What form should it take?
What form should campaign finance reform take this next session?
Secretary of State Chris Nelson weighed in recently at the Argus Leader. Here's what he thought would be good:
Read it all here. Good ideas. Where do I fall in on all of this? Not that you care, but it's a good jumping off point for discussion:
"Over the years, a number of legislators and others have tried to change our campaign finance laws, but none of that has gone anywhere," Nelson said. "I had the feeling by early summer that there was enough concern across the state that the time was right to look at the issue."
He said he hasn't finished the details of the bill. It generally will deal with:
Greater clarity in who and what groups must file financial reports. Whether contribution limits for individuals or groups should be set or changed. Currently, contributions to candidates are capped but contributions to political action committees, for example, are not. Requiring a financial report from groups that organize and carry out petition drives to place issues on the ballot. Currently, reporting requirements don't begin until an issue has been OK'd for the ballot. Requiring legislative candidates to file pre-election finance reports. Reports aren't required of general-election candidates for the Legislature until the end of the year, too late to let people see how much those candidates received and spent. Civil penalties for failing to file reports. Failure to file is a misdemeanor, Nelson said, but criminal charges for late filing are rare to nonexistent. Nelson thinks a per-day fine would make candidates and groups take the filing requirements more seriously.
"My goal would be to never collect a penalty but to have the reports filed on time," Nelson said. "What we're trying to do is assure that there is disclosure of information for citizens in a timely manner."
I'd like to see higher personal limits on races. ($1000 legislative, $5000 state races).Now, these aren't tough guidelines. In fact, they're pretty darn loose with high limits.
I'd like to at least place some moderation on using PACS as a vehicle to avoid campaign finance limits, by possibly limiting the amount individuals can contribute. I would think a $5-10,000 aggregate yearly total limit for State PACS per person is entirely reasonable, as it isn't likely to limit the activities of the common man, but it will keep single individuals from buying elections.
I think reporting should be earlier and with no loopholes for associations and corporations. I'd also like to see another reporting interval in there during election years. Such as adding the first of October to the one 2 weeks out and end of year.
I'd also like to see a 24 hour notice to the Secretary of State whenever funds are transferred between PACS.
And yes, we should finally have a penalty of some sort for failure to file on a timely basis. Given the number of zero filers, I think it could be based on a percentage of what you're reporting as received.
Under this, you could still give a legislative candidate $6-11,000 between a personal donation and a PAC you set up to avoid the $1000 limit. And that would be it. Anyone else you'd give to would be limited to the $1000. The point would be to keep from encouraging single individuals from abusing and prostituting the system as has taken place over the past few cycles.
One commenter noted that it should be more about reporting than limits. And I'd agree to a point. Raise the ceiling where it exists, and install a high one where it doesn't. But most importantly, make sure it's nice and bright so you can see what's going on.
It's not directly campaign finance related, but I'd also throw in that paid petition circulators need to go, because it should be about the idea, not A buck or two per signature.
What are your ideas and thoughts on this?