My Work

Friday, June 3, 2011

Campaign Finance Reform

There has been some movement in the right direction in Carson City this legislative session as regards Nevada’s election laws, among the worst in the nation.  During the years in which I was editor of the Nevada Observer, we wrote often about the problem of campaign finance reporting, in reality, lack of reporting.

Candidates are required to file contribution and expense reports (C&E) regularly with the Secretary of State’s office, but there were few requirements to follow.  Some candidates actually filed their reports in pencil, most were hand written making it virtually impossible to follow the dollar.

We wrote often that the filings should be done electronically, that data base computer programs should be used, that the listings, at the least, should be alphabetical.  It appears that someone has been paying attention.  AB452, offered by Secretary of State Ross Miller, would require C&E reports be filed electronically, and Miller said he would then create a date base in order to follow the contributions.

Flaunting of the election finance laws in Nevada has been a game that should have been eliminated a century ago, but it’s so much fun to shove a stick in the eyes of the public by politicians that the corrections are just now being made.

The sticky part of Nevada’s election law is not being addressed.  As it stands today, an individual and a corporation are treated similarly.  When we speak of contributor, it could be a person, it could be a corporation.  The law says contributions cannot exceed $10,000, which breaks down to $5,000 for the primary election, and if the candidate is successful, another $5,000 for the general.  One would think, then, that an individual would not be able to contribute more than $10,000.  Not so, McGee.

Developers and gaming operators have been contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars, regularly, and legally.  If a man also was responsible for five corporations, he would be able to contribute $10,000 for himself, and $10,000 for each of those corporations.  Some developers in southern Nevada own and operate tens and more corporations.  Some legislators have been known to respond to large donations.

The law needs to be changed so that the officers of the corporations are listed in the C&E reports.  In that way, at the very least, we would know who is trying to buy their way into the warm and fuzzy hearts of our legislators.

It would be a good thing to separate individual donators from corporate donators, but that might be a lot to ask of those fine men and women in Carson City.  This first step by Mr. Miller is appreciated, but more steps are needed.  Our horse and buggy approach to campaign finance is deplorable in the 21st Century.

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