Wednesday, March 30, 2005

GOP Rep. Mays Blocks Bipartisan Campaign Finance Proposal | Kansas Democratic Party

GOP Rep. Mays Blocks Bipartisan Campaign Finance Proposal:
Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays used his influence to destroy the effort of a bipartisan coalition within the legislature. Lawmakers in both chambers worked long hours to beat the deadline and gather the votes necessary to advance a proposal to pass campaign finance disclosure legislation that has stalled in committees this year.

When GOP leaders learned of the proposal created by House Democrats and Moderate Republicans, they skipped over the bill to which the coalition had planned to attach their plan. …

The campaign finance legislation in question is backed by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, which enforces Kansas' campaign finance laws. If passed, candidates and political action committees would be required to report last-minute donations, which under current law, voters don't learn about until weeks after the polls have closed. The amendment also would have forced disclosure of so-called "issue advocacy." Groups that don't expressly urge a vote for or against a specific candidate don't have to report how much money they raise and spend.

Groups across the political spectrum are likely to use issue advocacy to skirt Kansas campaign finance laws in future elections unless the laws are changed. In the 2004 election, right wing groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth exploited the loophole to further their extreme agenda.
Good disclosure laws are great. The work we did on the funding of Phill Kline, the conservative Board, and the work I did on Kris Kobach are all testaments to the value of campaign finance disclosure laws. We deserve to know who's buying the interest of our leaders. And the same is true of at least certain categories of issue ads.

As RSR showed, there are these PACs which might run issue ads as well as fund candidates. They form a broad and shadowy network of authoritarians. If a group is advertising about gay marriage, evolution, or abortion, we know who they're advocating. Since it would be wrong to target the content of the ads, any campaign related ad buys should be subject to disclosure. I think that's fair. Commercial speech gets much less protection than other speech, but political speech gets the maximum protection possible. It's tricky, but there has to be a way.

What the bill would have done sounds pretty moderate, and wouldn't have pushed those boundaries. But a bipartisan victory wasn't what the Republican leadership wanted, so they spiked it.