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A Seat in the House

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Four pieces of legislation to improve the reporting and use of campaign contributions

     In recent years there has been considerable interest in campaign finance reform and even though the level of attention is mostly at the federal level, the Idaho legislature has been dealing with campaign finance reform as well. This past session the legislature and the Governor placed into law four pieces of legislation that improves reporting and use of campaign contributions.

House Bill 777 (HB777) cleared up a loophole that allowed office holders to convert campaign contributions to personal use. Prior to HB777, campaign contributions could be used to defray not only campaign expenses, but to defer any “ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the duties of that person’s office." This has been liberally defined by some to the extent that campaign contributions have been used for personal expenses that one would have whether or not they were holding public office. Examples are using campaign contributions to pay for a shoeshine, laundry services or other similar personal expenses.

HB777 tightened the loophole by adding language to existing legislation stating:

“No funds shall be converted to any personal use. For the purposes of this section, a contribution shall be considered to be converted to personal use if the contribution is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign or the individual’s duties as holder of public office." 

In other words, if you were not in office and would have the expense anyway—don’t use campaign funds!

House Bill 811 (HB811) requires an additional campaign contribution report for holders of a statewide office. Previously, if a statewide candidate had an unexpended balance of contributions or an expenditure deficit, he/she had to file a report on January 31 of each year to report such funds. HB811 requires that now, in addition to the January report, a semi-annual report must be filed by July 31 of each year. These reports have to be filed until the campaign account shows no unexpended balance of contributions or expenditure deficit. The purpose of the additional report is to aid in accountability for use of campaign funds and to ensure that the expenditures of those funds are appropriate.

The legislature also passed two bills related directly to city elections and city office holders. Senate Bill 1214 (SB1214) was enacted to provide greater accountability from those seeking public office in cities with populations of five thousand or more. Previously only those seeking election as mayor or city council members in cities of 16,000 or more had to report their campaign contributions. SB1214 reduces the population threshold to 5,000 instead of 16,000. In our legislative district, the city of Sandpoint has a population greater then 5,000 and the Mayor and City Council members are now subject to campaign reporting requirements.

House Bill 625 (HB625) requires mayors and city council members to report their campaign contributions to the city Clerk instead of the Secretary of State and that issues of campaign reporting law for city officials shall be taken up with the city Attorney instead of the Attorney General. 

Interested persons can obtain information relating to campaign contributions to mayors and city council members by requesting such information from the city clerk; campaign contribution information for state office holders is available from the Secretary of State’s office.

Campaign contribution and expense information for candidates for state offices can also be found on the Secretary of State’s web site. The website address is: www.idsos. state.id.us; then highlight “Elections, lobbyists, and Campaign Disclosure” and then highlight “Campaign Finance” and you will be at the campaign information site.

Thanks for reading and as always please feel free to contact me with issues of concern or questions relating to legislative activities. My home phone is 208-265-0123 and my mailing address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, 83825.

George 

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

Idaho Legislature, campaign finance reform, HB777, HB811, SB1214, HB625

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