finance may be doomed
(Week of May 21, 2002)
MAY 17, 2002 - - A bill that would provide
dozens of reforms to the state's campaign finance system is headed
for the Senate, but observers say the House-passed measure likely
won't pass this year because of time constraints. Three weeks remain
in a legislative session where several high-profile bills are mired
in stalled negotiations between House and Senate conferees.
With all of the other stuff on the General Assembly's
agenda, campaign finance reform (H. 3144) doesn't have a lot of
momentum. "People just aren't excited about it," one Senate
That doesn't mean this year's hard work will go
for nought. Weeks of Senate subcommittee debates on the proposal
will put the General Assembly in a good position to move to get
campaign finance reform quickly.
Among the potentially controversial items in the
reform proposal passed this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee
is a section that would dramatically affect the way political parties
fund candidates. Current law allows parties to provide unlimited
expenditures on behalf of candidates.
The reform proposal, however, would eliminate multi-candidate
expenditures by parties and would raise the "total aggregate
amount receivable by a candidate from a political party to $100,000
(up from $50,000) for statewide candidates and $50,000 (up from
$10,000) for any other candidates." (Source: Summary of Senate
version of H. 3144, S.C. Senate).
What the provision apparently means is that joint
efforts - - direct mail, outreach phone calls, television ads, radio
ads and the like - - by candidates that are funded by parties would
be limited. While the impact of the provision isn't crystal clear,
some observers say party-building and outreach efforts to get voters
to the polls could be impacted severely.
Other provisions of the campaign finance reform
proposal include measures that would:
- Require those behind ballot reform measures
to file campaign disclosure reports;
- Expand the definition of "independent expenditure"
and provide reporting requirements for such expenses;
- Expand ethics complaint rules;
- Require electronic filing of campaign reports;
- Raise contribution limits to $5,000 for statewide
candidates and $2,500 for other candidates;
- Require all expenditures and contributions to
be reported (current law requires reporting for more than $100);
- Remove late-filing penalty caps.