Wednesday, December 11, 2013

SB661 - My own thoughts

I'm not speaking for this as LCRC chair, but as someone who works in this field. 

There's some controversy about State Senate Bill 661. I think there's some good and bad with it. My own stance overall is that I support full disclosure and unlimited contributions. If someone wants to donate $25000, that's their choice. It should be fully disclosed, and voters need to make up their own mind if they have a problem with it or not in the primary or general elections.

I have discussed this issue with my reps and a few others. I'll put things in good, bad, or needs clarification categories.

Good:
A. Raises food contribution limit reporting requirement to $1000 (from $100). - This is one of those areas hard to track. When people donate pizza, drinks, etc for other volunteers, it adds up. In higher level campaigns, it can be a pain to track down all the receipts. 

B. Codifies "Issue ads" as not election ads. This follows the current case law, and stops "McCain Feingold" chilling of free speech. I don't always like issue ads, but I like censoring the mention of candidates and voting records even less.

C. Raising donation limits - Besides my "full disclosure" and "unlimited contribution" stances, This limits the money towards "issue ads" because candidate committees are more apt to talk about their own records instead of the opponents (usually done by friends of the program and not candidate committees). 

D. Cost of living increase for requiring reporting of employment information. Frankly, I think the requirement of reporting employment information should be gone anyway. Name and address alone should suffice.

Needs Clarification:
This text was hard to follow and should be cleaned up because I didn't know the reference until I called (nor did some others). Apparently it is substituting any communications for user unfriendly MERTS if there's a bunch of $5 donations.
For contributions of $5.00 or less by an individual to a

political committee or independent committee, the secretary of

state shall accept for filing any written communication from the

political committee or independent committee that contains the

information otherwise required under this subsection. Any such

written communication does not need to contain an original

signature.
 
Neutral:
Reports in non election year in July/October.  More work, but understand the reasoning.

Bad:
This language is removed. Caucus groups would not be able to get involved in primaries. That is a Pandora's Box waiting to happen.

(a) A house political party caucus committee or a senate

political party caucus committee shall not pay a debt incurred by a

candidate if that debt was incurred while the candidate was seeking

nomination at a primary election and the candidate was opposed at

that primary.

     (b) A house political party caucus committee or a senate

political party caucus committee shall not make a contribution to

or make an expenditure on behalf of a candidate if that candidate

is seeking nomination at a primary election and the candidate is

opposed at that primary.

I understand in some cases where one candidate in the primary would be significantly better than the other. I don't want to see a Sharron Angle nominated any more than the rest of the party. I also don't want to see another Pete Hoekstra (frankly non-existent) campaign either, and he was the favorite of many within the establishment. I've also seen absolute disasters on the federal level with the NRSC and to a lesser extent, NRCC.

Some good people that might get help will be tea party targets just because of "leadership" picking the candidates. This could make things harder for them. Some pet candidates who are bad news could get support due to being buddies with the right people, solely being an incumbent, or voting a certain way. Charlie Crist was originally supported by the NRSC. So was Arlen Specter before he switched parties.

The job of caucus is to increase the majority of Republicans. Money spent in primaries can be spent in general instead. The best way is to stay neutral in primaries, and support the winner. That's the fair way and best way to go.

A lot of this bill is good. The right amendment should solve the issues. 

EDITED TO ADD:
Amended bill passed the house - The caucus provisions regarding primaries is removed. Good to see that. Thank you state house. 

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