In the wake of the failure of a statewide campaign finance reform initiative to get on the ballot last year, the Idaho Secretary of State’s office has drafted legislation that would strengthen penalties and make other important changes to Idaho’s Sunshine Law.
Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has asked for city officials to review and comment on the draft, which can be accessed via this link.
Currently, campaign finance reporting is required for all candidates and political groups in cities over 5,000 population. Last session, legislation was introduced that would have required reporting in cities of all sizes, but that proposal was defeated in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
The paradigm shift proposed by the Secretary of State’s legislation is to eliminate the population threshold for city campaign finance reporting and require reporting from any candidate or political committee that raises or spends at least $500 in an election campaign. Regardless of the city’s population size, any candidate or political group that raised or spent at least $500 in an election campaign would have to file campaign finance reports.
This change would help transparency in elections by focusing reporting requirements on candidates and political groups that are raising and spending money. The current population threshold requires considerable effort by write-in candidates and others who raise and spend little, if any, money. This is time consuming for city clerks, who often must personally fill out reports for these candidates who may only spend a few bucks out of their own pocket for their campaign.
Other changes proposed by the legislation include:
· Requiring electronic filing of campaign finance reports.
· Requiring 48-hour notice of contributions of $1,000 or more at any point during the campaign, not just within a narrow timeframe before the election, as is currently the case.
· Increasing penalties for Sunshine Law violations from $250 to $2,500 for an individual and from $2,500 to $10,000 for a business, PAC or other political organization.
· Clarifying that expenditures must be reported when the funds have been contractually obligated or committed, whether by oral or written agreement.
The legislation would not change the contribution limit for city elections, which is currently $1,000 per contributor (individual, business or PAC), except for the candidate who can contribute or loan unlimited amounts to their own campaign.
AIC asks city officials to review the draft legislation and reply with comments to Policy Analyst Justin Ruen at firstname.lastname@example.org