Rep. Jim Stoicheff’s attempt to limit campaign contributions in state and local elections died in a House committee on a tie vote Thursday.
The Sandpoint Democrat and House minority leader proposed capping contributions of individuals, companies and political action committees at $1,000 for local races and at $5,000 for state races.
Candidates could not receive more than those limits throughout the primary and general elections from one source. The amounts also would apply to “in-kind” contributions for services and non-monetary support for candidates.
Stoicheff wanted to curb the kind of large contributions that marked the governor’s race between Gov. Phil Batt and former state Attorney General Larry EchoHawk. If his bill had been law in that election, EchoHawk would have had to have returned $254,108 in contributions, while Batt would have had to have returned about $94,000, he said.
In state races last year, 22 Republicans and 22 Democrats would have had to have returned campaign contributions over the limits set by the bill, he said.
“When you start to bring in the big boys who will put hundreds and thousands of dollars into these races, how can the average guy have a chance?” Stoicheff asked the House State Affairs Committee.
Committee Republicans objected to the contribution limits applying to both the primary and general elections, arguing that those limits would be more restrictive than federal election laws.
Rep. Jesse Berain, R-Boise, said the bill would hurt Republicans more than Democrats. GOP candidates face more primary challenges and would need to come back to primary contributors for the general election, he said.
Some Republicans said the bill would be more supportable if the $5,000 state-race and $1,000 localrace limits would apply separately to the primary and general elections instead of to the whole election cycle.
Rep. Tom Dorr, R-Post Falls, said the bill still wouldn’t prevent creative methods of giving thousands to candidates through new political action committees.