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Campaign finance changes

Published (4/29/2011)
By Nick Busse
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Groups that fund campaigns to promote or defeat ballot questions would be subject to the same public disclosure requirements as other political groups, under a bill that won committee approval April 18.

Sponsored by Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers), HF1533 embodies recommendations of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill and sent it to the House Civil Law Committee. Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) sponsors the companion, SF1225, which awaits action by the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.

Gary Goldsmith, the board’s executive director, said much of the bill is intended to fix oversights that were made in a 2010 law that tightened disclosure requirements for political spending.

The bill would give the board more power to oversee laws governing fair campaign practices. Goldsmith said the board already unofficially answers many questions from the public in this area; putting the statutes under their jurisdiction would allow them to issue official advisory opinions.

Several provisions are designed to raise the registration threshold for individuals and organizations that make political expenditures. Goldsmith said the changes would ease burdens on those with limited financial resources who wish to engage in political activities.

“The constitution requires that we balance the speaker’s interest with the state’s interest in disclosure, and we’re concerned that some of our thresholds for registration and reporting are too low,” he said.

Another provision would change certain kinds of data from public to nonpublic. Goldsmith said it is intended to keep disclosures that are smaller than the legal threshold from becoming public data under the state’s data privacy laws.

The bill would:

• clarify a prohibition against commingling of political funds with other funds;

• clarify that certain kinds of political expenditures are not aggregated for the purpose of meeting reporting thresholds; and

• permit groups to terminate their registration of a political fund via written notice to the board.

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