(UPDATED 10/19/08) Clean Money – it is possible, you know?

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October 19th: As of today, the following have agreed to co-sponsor the bill: Haley, Hamilton, Wylie, Roland Smith, Huggins, Pitts, Simrill, Murrell Smith, Cobb-Hunter, Harrell, Merrill, Gullick, James Smith, Owens, Philips, Jennings, Garry Smith.
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Having two kids under the age of 4 , I tend to have alot of spilled milk around our house that leads to alot of cleanups. In your house (the State House), we also have alot of cleanups that should be going on as well. And many of us are trying.

Last year, it was Earmark Reform . While we didn’t pass my bill, we did pass a version of the bill (less teeth that I had hoped) as a House Rule.

Last month, we talked about On-The-Record Voting (which I’m pleased to say is gaining momentum all over the state…local civic groups….. newspaper editorials …. elected officials from both parties …..basically, anyone with a brain!)

Now, it’s time to clean up the mother’s-milk of politics: MONEY . Or, specifically, how elected officials and candidates for office disclose their contributions.

It really bothers me that there’s an expression in politics that says: “There are two types of candidates. Those that raise money – and losers.” While this is not always the case (note: several candidates have worked their tail off and been outspent by large amounts and still come out on top), money can be a good indicator of how much support a person has garnered.

As someone who had NO ONE in his corner on Day One (well, actually had 10 folks at my house in December 2003), I really don’t fault anyone for accepting any money, from anywhere, at anytime (as long as it’s legal). Folks, it costs money to run races and (people often forget) to stay in touch with your constituents. Those constituent surveys, constituent-service nights, end-of-year summaries and phone calls aren’t free!

Much has been made in the past few years about “out-of-state money” trying to influence our state government. I’m not sure if I believe the crowd that says it’s all bad. I certainly would also never say that folks are ever “bought and paid for.”

What I would say is “As long as everyone knows who supports who – who cares?” It is America still, right?

The problem with our current system is that everyone doesn’t know who supports who….at least not until after votes have been cast.

That’s why my Campaign Disclosure Reform Bill (which I will pre-file in December) is a much needed reform that will provide even more disclosure and information to YOU, the taxpayer and voter. I am sending a copy the bill to every member of the SC House of Representatives asking for their support. I was pleased this summer at the Republican Caucus meeting when I shared my intentions and they were well received.

This bill, like any open-government bill, isn’t partisan though and I am looking forward to my Democratic friends offering their support as well.

* The bill doesn’t place any new restrictions on donors.
* The bill doesn’t infringe on any person or any group’s right to support the candidate of
their choice.

What the bill simply does is this: after the pre-election filing, any contributions between that report and the election must be reported withing 48 hours of receipt. Folks, that’s how the Fed’s do it. That’s how we will now do it.

This is the best way I know to have voters see who is supporting what candidate/official prior to casting their vote.

Oh….here’s another thing the bill will do. Have more candidates report on line!

Presently, just statewide officials have to file on-line. That means the constitutional officers and House and Senate members. Don’t we care where county, school board, and municipal candidates and officials get their support? We should.

I hope to post in January 2009 that this bill is one of a handful of Open-Government legislation that passes our first two weeks in session. First, let’s get On-The-Record voting. Then, Campaign Disclosure Reform. Next? I’m sure there’s plenty more to do, right? What ideas do you have?

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UPDATED (October 13): Spartanburg-Hearld Journal has picked up on the bill. Also, I sent a few emails out before the letter to the entire House…so far the following have asked to be co-sonsors: Haley, Hamilton, Wylie, Roland Smith, Huggins, Pitts, Simrill, Murrell Smith, Cobb-Hunter, Harrell, Merrill.
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Below is a copy of the bill:

DRAFT PREPARED BY LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
House: Ballentine
Attorney: D. Williams
Stenographer: Pair
Date: October 9, 2008
DOC. I.D.: L:\COUNCIL\BILLS\DKA\3004DW09.DOC

A BILL

TO AMEND SECTION 8 13 365, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO ELECTRONIC FILING OF CAMPAIGN DISCLOSURES AND REPORTS, SO AS TO MAKE IT APPLICABLE TO COUNTY, SCHOOL BOARD, AND MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN ADDITION TO STATEWIDE ELECTIONS; AND TO AMEND SECTION 8 13 1308, AS AMENDED, RELATING TO THE REQUIREMENT TO FILE CERTIFIED CAMPAIGN REPORTS BY CANDIDATES AND COMMITTEES, SO AS TO REQUIRE THAT THEY MUST BE FILED FORTY EIGHT HOURS AFTER THEIR RECEIPT STARTING AFTER THE FILING OF THE PRE-ELECTION REPORT.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Section 8 13 365(A) of the 1976 is amended to read:

“(A) The commission must shall establish a system of electronic filing for all disclosures and reports required pursuant to Article 13, of Chapter 13, of Title 8 from all candidates and entities subject to its jurisdiction. These disclosures and reports for candidates and committees for statewide, county, school board, and municipal offices must be filed using an Internet based filing system as prescribed by the commission. Reports and disclosures filed with the Ethics Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives for legislative offices must be in a format such that these filings can be forwarded to the State Ethics Commission using an Internet based system. The information contained in the campaign disclosure form, with the exception of social security numbers, campaign bank account numbers, and tax ID numbers, must be publicly accessible, searchable, and transferable.”

SECTION 2. Section 8 13 1308(D) of the 1976 Code, as last amended by Act 76 of 2003, is further amended to read:

“(D) (1) At least fifteen days before an election, After the filing of the pre-election report, a contribution received before the election must be reported within forty-eight hours and a certified campaign report must be filed showing contributions of more than one hundred dollars and expenditures to or by the candidate or committee for the period ending twenty days before the election. The candidate or committee must shall maintain a current list during the period before the election commencing at the beginning of the calendar quarter of the election of all contributions of more than one hundred dollars and expenditures. The list must be open to public inspection upon request.
(2) A committee immediately shall file a campaign report listing expenditures if it makes an independent expenditure or an incurred expenditure within the calendar quarter in which the election is conducted or twenty days before the election, whichever period of time is greater, in excess of:
(a) ten thousand dollars in the case of a candidate for statewide office; or
(b) two thousand dollars in the case of a candidate for any other office.
(3) In the event of If a runoff election occurs, candidates or committees are not required to file another campaign report in addition to the reports already required under this section. However, records must remain open to public inspection upon request between the election and the runoff.”

SECTION 3. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.
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