WA State Rep Proposes Jail Time for Funneling Contributions

KONP: “Rep. Kevin Van De Wege has proposed legislation that would give the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) the option to recommend felony charges when it deals with egregious violations of campaign finance laws.

“Currently, the PDC is limited to fining donors who purposefully and willfully circumvent laws designed to make contributions transparent. This proposal would require the PDC to refer violations to the state attorney general for criminal prosecution, a dramatic change for those who attempt to circumvent Washington State law and one that will help keep the public informed on who spends money on elections in the state.”

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Summary of New Campaign Finance, Ethics & Lobbying Laws Nationwide

National Law Review: “The New Year brings with it new laws governing campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. Below we highlight some of the major state and federal laws that took effect on or around January 1. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most significant changes that are new for 2015. In addition to the new laws outlined below, many state legislative sessions are starting up. Some states prohibit campaign finance activity during the session, so proceed with caution.”

WA Op-Ed Calls for Increased Disclosure at State, Local Level

Spokesman-Review: “Sen. Andy Billig’s bid to illuminate secret political contributions died in the last Legislature. But subsequent campaign shenanigans that threatened the Republicans’ hold on the Senate have drawn more bipartisan support for the idea.”

“In the meantime, the Legislature can do its part by passing SB 5153, which would force disclosure when campaign-related spending exceeds $25,000 in statewide races or $5,000 in local contests. This would expose groups trying to influence elections from the shadows, without discouraging the activity of small nonprofits formed as legitimate social welfare organizations.

“The Public Records Act and the Public Disclosure Commission are products of a 1972 ballot measure. Voters have made it very clear they support transparency and accountability.”

Good Overview on Disclosure, Way Forward

Mint Press News: “But it’s not just disclosure exemptions and cleverly promoted television ads that have prompted public concern. Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the unlimited contribution and outside spending amounts have prompted various advocacy groups and legislators to push for remodeling campaign finance and disclosure policies in their states.

“‘Most do not have great disclosure laws or conflict of interest laws,’ Mansur Gidfar, communications director for anti-corruption group Represent.Us, told MintPress. ‘In a lot of cases, every situation around the laws that govern how money interacts with the political process is actually a lot worse at the state level than it is at the federal level.'”

“‘Under current law, regardless of how biased the endless amounts of political ads are in support of or are against a specific candidate, the source of funding for an ad does not have to be disclosed if the ad does not explicitly use the phrases ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against.’

“‘You can spend an unlimited amount of money sending out mail in a legislator’s district saying that Legislator X … has done a terrible job for you,’ [Minnesota state Rep Ryan] Winkler told MintPress.

“But despite any insinuations, the nonprofit organizations can claim their ads are educating voters on an issue, not politicking, as long as they don’t employ those ‘magic’ words.”

UT Rep (again) Introduces Bill to Limit Contributions

Utah Political Capital (1/12): “This is not King’s first attempt to reign in campaign contributions. King has run similar legislation for the past four years, however, each time King comes a little bit closer. The 2010 bill died in committee while the 2014 bill failed on a very close 35-38 vote in the House.

“If passed, HB 60 would limit contributions from political action committees, corporations, and other individuals. A maximum of $5,000 could be donated to a legislative, judicial, or school board candidate. Donations to a current state office-holder would be limited to $10,000. Donations to political parties, political action committees, and labor organizations would be capped at $40,000. Under the bill, violating these limits would be a class B misdemeanor.”

MA Legislative Taskforce Considers Requiring Disclosure from Nonprofits

Gloucester Times: “Government watchdogs want the state to force nonprofits that raise and spend money in political campaigns to disclose the sources of their cash..

“The proposal is one of several being considered by a task force that is reviewing campaign finance laws amid concerns about so-called ‘dark money’ hidden from public view.

“’It’s a significant problem, both at the federal and state level, that organizations whose real purpose is to make electioneering communications do not have to disclose their donors,’ said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts and member of the task force created by the Legislature. ‘These expenditures should be disclosed to the public.’

“The nonprofit organizations — many of which are designated as 501 (c)(4) groups — don’t pay state or federal taxes. They collectively have spent more than $8 million in Massachusetts since the 2010 elections on ‘voter education,’ according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.”