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20 September 2010

Vague Campaign Finance Rules Show Need For Stronger Ethics Laws

Former Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigations editor Jim Walls continued his review of the state's campaign finance regulations Monday as he examined the spending limits applied to legislative caucuses.

Georgia law caps donations to a particular legislative candidate, or an outside expenditure on his or her behalf, at $2,400 per election, with some exceptions for political parties.

The parties may spend as much as they want [...], because the law exempts them from spending limits when they’re supporting a group of named candidates.

. . .campaign finance law appears to treat legislative caucuses differently. The statute defines a caucus as a “political committee.” A few paragraphs later, the law exempts parties, but not political committees, from spending limits for multicandidate efforts.

Caucuses in the House and Senate are part of the party, top Democrats say, so the spending limits do not apply to them either.

Walls, Jim (2010-9-20). Caucuses’ spending limits fuzzy. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved on 2010-9-20.

It seems as though both political parties are lawyered up looking for loopholes in Georgia's campaign finance laws.

That isn't right, and it demonstrates why the state needs stronger ethics laws.

Here's just a few of my ideas:

Apply a contribution limit of $30,400 to all PACs, including political parties and caucuses, across the board. Currently, Georgia law allows political parties and PACs to accept unlimited amounts of campaign cash.

Clarify that legislative caucuses are independent committees subject to the $2,400 spending limit.

Require that all PACs, including political parties and caucuses, file monthly campaign finance reports. In Georgia, PACs only have to file reports with the State Ethics Commission once a quarter or four times a year.

Geez man, this is a good legislative platform to run on in a couple years.