The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee moved two pieces of legislation related to campaign finance forward on Friday, saying the changes would add more transparency to the elections process if they are passed into law.
The first bill is sponsored by Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. Senate Bill 1337 lowers the threshold for reporting campaign contributions or expenditures from $1,000 to $500 on a cumulative basis. According to existing Idaho code, candidates for office in Idaho must submit monthly reports of campaign contributions and expenditures in the year of the election. In off years, only contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported within 48 hours of receiving the donation.
If the bill is signed into law, candidates would need to file monthly reports as soon as they accumulated or spent $500 or more, even in an off year.
“Elections have become year-round,” Lodge told the committee on Friday. “You will note that before one campaign is over, people are announcing for offices even four years into the future.”
With only 48-hour reports to rely on in off years, Lodge said, the only option is to manually add up the reports to find out how much a candidate is raising and spending in a non-election year.
“This is not what transparency in election contributions is about,” she said.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane testified in favor of the bill, as did Elinor Chehey, a representative from the League of Women Voters of Idaho.
The committee did not debate the bill and passed it to the Senate floor with a recommendation that it pass. If it is passed by the House and signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1.
Ada County clerk says even he has trouble contacting some candidates for office
The second bill was presented by Ken Burgess, a lobbyist appearing on behalf of the Idaho Press Club. Senate Bill 1338 would require declarations of candidacy and nominating petitions for office in Idaho to include campaign contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, and the information would be publicly available upon request.
McGrane spoke in favor of that bill as well, saying even as a county clerk, he has had trouble finding contact information for candidates.
“We had a contested recount in Meridian in November, and one of the candidates who was involved in that, I had to scour the internet, including going on LinkedIn and trying to connect with the person to get them a message because I could not find contact information through all the various means we have to let them know that they would be involved in a recount,” McGrane said.
Chehey also supported the idea, saying the League of Women Voters of Idaho assembles a voter guide in election years with candidate questionnaires. The questions are sent by email, but the organization sometimes struggles to reach candidates.
“Some candidates have no website or they’re up very late in the season, so they may get left out,” Chehey said.
The committee passed the bill to the Senate floor without discussion. If it is passed by the House and signed into law, the bill contains an emergency clause that would make it effective immediately.
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