Secretary of State
Want to Know Who Donated to Candidates Now? It’s Easy -- Just Pass Campaign Finance Legislation Pre-Filed Today
(Frankfort, KY) Today, reporters and political junkies can find out just how much money candidates for Governor and other constitutional offices have raised for the 2007 general election – well, that’s the way it would be, if the Kentucky General Assembly passes legislation pre- filed by State Senator Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown), which is endorsed by Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
Today would have been the deadline for candidates to file their campaign finance disclosure forms for their 60-day report required by legislation. Similar legislation, SB 159, passed the Kentucky State Senate unanimously during the 2007 regular session of the General Assembly but failed to receive a vote on the floor in the House of Representatives.
“It is past time for the General Assembly to act on this legislation which represents the most comprehensive and significant proposal in years to increase the transparency of the elections process in our Commonwealth,” noted Grayson, the state’s Chief Election Official. “This bill will serve as a beacon of light onto how campaigns are funded in our Commonwealth all the while providing the information in a hassle-free and efficient format for citizens.”
Thayer, who serves as chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, which handles such legislation, promised that the bill would once again see expedient action in his committee.
“Kentuckians deserve a campaign finance system where transparency and access to financial information allow citizens to keep candidates and elected officials accountable for their campaign fundraising,” said Senator Thayer. “This legislation not only strengthens transparency and access, but also emphatically states that they are priorities of Kentucky.”
The bill calls for a number of recommendations from the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (KREF) Task Force which issued a report to the General Assembly nearly two years ago. The task force featured bi-partisan representation from a variety of election related parties and included Secretary Grayson. The task force met for eight months and had over 20 hours of public debate before it made its recommendations.
Two of the task force’s top priorities, increased reporting and more electronic filing of reports, are major components of the proposed legislation. The Campaign Disclosure Project, which lowered Kentucky in its annual ranking of "States with the Best Campaign Finance Laws" last year, specifically cited Kentucky’s lack of required electronic filing as a major reason for its downgrade. Kentucky scored an “F” for its low rate of electronic filing of fund-raising and spending reports.
“Kentucky needs to regain its status as a national leader in campaign disclosure,” said Senator Thayer. “We have studied this issue in depth for the last few sessions, and it is time we pass this legislation in order to further improve Kentucky’s lauded elections process.”
The bill calls for increased reporting by adding an additional report due sixty days before primary elections for statewide elected officials, as well as an additional report due sixty days before general elections for all candidates. It also requires all candidates who raise over $25,000 in one election cycle to file their reports to the KREF electronically.
Kentucky’s existing election finance laws have been challenged by observers and participants of the system as confusing, lengthy, and legally problematic. A recent series of legal challenges invalidated several portions of the existing election finance statutes. Senator Thayer's legislation addresses many changes in election laws that resulted from those decisions.
John Rogers, Chair of the Registry of Election Finance, the agency charged with enforcement of Kentucky’s campaign finance laws, applauded Senator Thayer’s efforts to move Kentucky’s campaign finance laws into the 21st century. Noting that many of the changes proposed in the legislation are the result of careful study by legislative committees following a 2005 final report issued by the KREF’s Advisory Task Force under Rogers’s leadership, Rogers predicted the legislation will receive serious attention this session.
“Evolving technology opens new ways of collecting and reporting campaign contributions, and our current laws do not address or accommodate such changes; so, it is very important for this kind of review to occur periodically to allow for and encourage positive changes to Kentucky’s campaign finance laws,” said Rogers.
Secretary Grayson and Senator Thayer have effectively worked to enact other major election reform legislation. In 2005, they successfully advocated for the repeal of the ill-advised and failed taxpayer-funded political campaign legislation of 1992, and in June, they announced legislation to repeal the gubernatorial runoff.
For more information about the 2005 Registry Task Force recommendations, please visit: http://www.kref.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/FCD6A0F6-AEC9-4767-8645-22FC9A1DF0F7/0/ATF_final_report.pdf.
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