Secretary of State
Campaign Finance Legislation Passes Unanimously From Senate
(Frankfort, KY) The accessibility and accountability of campaign fundraising would get a major boost under legislation unanimously passed today by the Kentucky State Senate. The legislation, Senate Bill 62 sponsored by Senator Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) and supported by Secretary of State Trey Grayson, would increase the frequency with which candidates report their campaign finances and would require statewide candidates to do so electronically, making the information available more quickly.
“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 served 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, has shepherded the bill through the legislative process before. Senate Bill 159 and Senate Bill 8 passed the Kentucky State Senate during the 2007 and 2008 regular sessions of the General Assembly, respectively, but failed to receive a vote on the floor in the House of Representatives. Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and Senator Thayer are hopeful that this session will be different.
“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. With the cooperative spirit evident in Frankfort this session, I am optimistic that we can get an agreement on this legislation in 2009.”
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 over four 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 for the third straight year has dropped Kentucky in its national rankings, had listed Kentucky in the top-10 in the country as recently as 2004. The state has now fallen to 21st in the national rankings. 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 statewide candidates to file their reports to the KREF electronically, a change from previous versions of the bill which required all candidates raising over $25,000 or more in a cycle to file electronically.
“Clearly, Kentucky’s Achilles heel in campaign disclosure is mandatory electronic filing; however, we have to be realistic,” noted Secretary Grayson. “Many members of the House had problems with the provision requiring all candidates who raise $25,000 or more in a cycle to file electronically. Although this is something we strongly believe is necessary, we cannot let perfect become the enemy of good. We must move this legislation forward,” said Grayson.
“Senator Thayer has been a tireless advocate for this important legislation,” remarked Secretary Grayson. “I am hopeful that the House will follow Senator Thayer and the Senate’s leadership and pass this bill expeditiously.”
Craig Dilger, 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, Dilger predicted the legislation will receive serious attention this session.
"The Registry is committed to maintaining a fair and level playing field in the political process in Kentucky. For that to happen we must continually update and refine our election finance laws. Senate Bill 62 will give the Registry the tools it needs to maintain that balance. Senator Thayer and the Senate have moved these needed changes to the next step. I join Secretary of State Grayson in urging the House to support this Bill and work for its passage."
Grayson also encouraged Kentucky’s top elected officials to rally behind this legislation. “Transparency is ‘all the buzz’ in Kentucky and across the country right now. I hope that Kentucky’s top legislative and executive branch officials will move beyond talk of making our government more transparent, and join us and work this legislation to see it to passage.” said Grayson. In addition, Grayson noted that during tight economic times, the money saved from having staff hand input data filed on paper, would allow the Registry to expand their services, notably disclosure services, without adding costs to taxpayers.
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/otheritems.htm.
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