There is widespread popular support for reforming campaign finance laws. The public seeks to make the laws more fair so that elected officials might be more responsive to voters instead of to contributors. However, there is no clear political support for any specific reform proposal. When any detailed proposal is described, there are elements that either offend some people or that are not easily resolved.
Reform proposals include:
- Restoring individual contribution limits to the former maximum of $2,500 (or lower)
- Eliminating corporate contributions, even indirectly, to candidates or political parties
- Including in-kind contributions in the contribution limits
- Limiting the aggregate amount that one individual may give to all candidates and political parties to $25,000 per election cycle
- Limiting both monetary and in-kind candidate-to-candidate and intra-party contributions
- Sharply limiting contributions ($250) from contractors to policy makers, including statewide and local officials
- Creating a centralized database of campaign contributions, registered lobbyists, ethics/financial disclosure statements of public officials, and bid/no-bid contractors
- Reporting contributions to a judge from anyone appearing before that judge
- Creating a General Accountability Office to review bid/no-bid contract selection and address the gaps in the enforcement of campaign finance and election laws
- Requiring disclosure of “electioneering communication” that mirrors the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 so that this disclosure is constitutional
- Restricting when and where lobbyists may contribute to legislative candidates (for example, not during legislative sessions or allowing contributions only within the candidate’s home district)
- Providing public financing for:
- State Supreme Court candidates
- Appeals court candidates
- All candidates for judge
- All statewide candidates
- Candidates for the General Assembly
- All candidates for county offices
- Candidates for municipal offices
The challenge is finding a source of funding that would not be immediately appropriated by the legislature for their use.
- Providing free television time to candidates who forego paid TV commercials
It is important to remember that all of these proposals for reform require action by the state legislature. And the state legislature is composed of people who won elections under the current laws. It will be up to the voters to pressure their legislators into seeing the need for change.