Posts Tagged ‘campaign finance disclosure’

Nevada Secretary Of State Seeks More Campaign Disclosure, Restrictions In Proposed ‘Aurora Act’

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:47 pm October 2nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Increased financial disclosure, greater restrictions on contributions and gifts, and tougher penalties for campaign violations are the goals of new legislation for the 2013 Legislature detailed today by Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The “Aurora Act,” named for the new campaign contribution and expense search function now available at the Secretary of State’s website, includes language that would mandate near real time reporting of large dollar campaign contributions and expenses, further define the prohibition on personal use of campaign funds and significantly restrict the ability of candidates and public officials to receive “gifts” from donors who may pose a conflict of interest.

Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The proposed legislation also includes provisions to allow the Secretary of State’s office to seek injunctive relief to order individuals or groups to file campaign finance reports, and substantially increased penalties for violations.

Miller said the campaign reform measures passed in the 2011 legislative session were the most comprehensive in Nevada history.

“We’ve made progress in increasing transparency and accountability in recent sessions, but we can clearly do more and do better,” he said. “I believe that we will have an initial coalition of lawmakers that can make this happen. If we want meaningful reform to occur, we need to call on all candidates and elected officials to support the ‘Aurora Act.’ We’ve all heard the lip service to this issue, but I believe that with the public’s help, we can get enough support from both sides of the aisle to bring much needed sunshine to this state.”

Initial support for Miller’s “Aurora Act” has been expressed by Assemblymen Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, and Pat Hickey, R-Reno, and by former state Sen. Sheila Leslie who is the Democratic candidate for Senate District 15 in Reno.

Hickey earlier this year called for his own set of reforms.

Hickey said: “ While there may be more or less added to Secretary Miller’s proposals, there should be widespread bi-partisan support for cleaning up campaigns and the conduct of candidates at all levels.”

Leslie said: “This is an opportunity for lawmakers to step up and give our constituents the information they need to make informed decisions, and to develop a greater level of trust between the people and their public servants.”

Leslie in 2011 proposed legislation that would have required lobbyists to report spending on lawmakers year round, and not just during legislative sessions. The bill died in an Assembly Committee. She requested the same bill for the 2013 session.

Conklin said the proposal could set an important tone for the legislature.

“We want to come away with an increased transparency, and in doing so demonstrate to Nevadans that their lawmakers can work in a bipartisan manner to effect meaningful change,” he said.

Miller’s legislation would require:

- Increased disclosure and transparency into the money being spent in Nevada’s elections by defining “electioneering communication” and “independent expenditure” to clarify who is required to disclose and when they are required to disclose money spent on Nevada candidates by third-party groups.

- Clarifying the term “personal use” to prevent campaign contributions from being used by a candidate for personal use.

- Clarifying that any expenditures made from a candidate or public official’s campaign account must always be reported.

- Requiring public officials and candidates to report their contributions on hand at the beginning of each year so the public will know how much money public officials and candidates are carrying over from year to year. Currently, only the contribution totals received within a calendar year are reported.

- Reporting within 72 hours contributions received or expenses paid in excess of $1,000 to provide the public with more “real time” reporting through an election cycle.

- Clarifying that the Secretary of State may seek injunctive relief for campaign finance violations to ensure that individuals and groups must not only pay a financial penalty but also actually disclose their activity.

- Allowing the Secretary of State to seek in penalties up to three times the amount of money at issue in a reporting violation. This change will give the office more flexibility in seeking penalties that are more in line with the amount of money involved reporting violations.

- Restricting and clarifying laws related to the acceptance of gifts by public officials by better defining “gift” and “restricted donor.” Changes will set forth from whom it is legal to accept gifts, and provide a clear list of examples of gifts that may or may not be accepted and must be disclosed on public reports.

Nevada’s Campaign Finance Transparency Efforts About To Move Out Of ‘Dark Ages’

By Sean Whaley | 3:00 pm September 9th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Fourth Estaters and members of the public interested in the esoteric world of political campaign contribution and expense reports should be salivating with the knowledge that as of Jan. 1, this information will finally be available in a usable format.

Secretary of State Ross Miller said that as a result of campaign finance reporting reforms he sought and the Legislature approved this past session, the contributions candidates receive and the expenditures they make on their campaigns will soon be much more transparent.

His office staff is working now on creating a searchable database that will allow interested persons to examine the newly revised reports filed by elected officials and candidates in a number of different ways. The new reporting requirements take effect Jan. 1, and Miller said his office intends to have the database ready on that date. The first use of the new search function will come as elected officials from across the state electronically file their annual reports for calendar year 2011 on Jan. 15, 2012.

As the reports are filed the information will instantly become available on the Secretary of State’s website. No longer will officials be able to mail in reports, requiring manual loading of the information by Miller’s staff. No longer will handwritten and sometimes illegible reports be accepted, with an exception for those who claim no access to the necessary technology.

At 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 16, all of the information from the Jan. 15 reports will be accessible. Sooner for those reports filed early.

“Mandating that these reports be filed electronically is the first step in putting the information in a way that is accessible to the public,” Miller said. “And I think when this system is unveiled it will bring Nevada out of the Dark Ages of campaign finance reporting and finally shine a light on the campaign finance data to make it accessible in a format for the public.”

State Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Legislative Operations and Elections Committee that reviewed and supported the changes, said lawmakers made a lot of progress on the campaign reporting issue last session. But as one who must comply with the new requirements, Parks said he is looking forward to seeing the new reporting forms.

Sen. David Parks, right, with colleagues Mo Denis and Barbara Cegavske, hear testimony in the 2011 session. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The easier it is for elected officials to complete the reports, the better the compliance will be, he said.

“I think we have an obligation to file reports that are well documented and as accurate as possible,” Parks said.

Miller said people will be able to search for contributions by a contributor’s name or address, by specific amounts or by a date range. On the expenditure side, people will be able to search by the name of the person or business paid, by the amount, by certain dates or by expenditure types.

Other search options will also be available, and the data will be exportable into a PDF or CSV format.

Miller said his office will not be able to add information from reports filed by mail by elected officials and candidates in previous election cycles. But if a candidate or elected official previously filed a report electronically, that information will be available as well, he said.

The work on the new database is being done by staff in house without any additional funding, Miller said.

Nevada in the past has received failing grades from groups assessing the transparency of its campaign reporting efforts. The changes approved by the Legislature should give Nevada a much better ranking, he said.

“As I testified before the Legislature, I couldn’t any make any promises that this was going to move us from an F to an A or a B, but I’m fairly confident that these changes will move us from a failing grade to at least a C,” Miller said with a laugh.

Another big advantage of the reporting changes is that all campaign reports for all candidates and elected officials will be held by the Secretary of State’s office as the central repository for the information. This will also include the financial disclosure forms required to be filed by elected officials.

-

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the new reporting requirements will move Nevada out of the Dark Ages:

090911Miller1 :28 for the public.”

Miller says the changes approved by the Legislature should improve Nevada’s ranking for transparency in campaign finance reporting:

090911Miller2 :17 least a C.”

State Sen. David Parks says the 2011 Legislature made good progress on the campaign finance reporting issue:

090911Parks1 :30 goes into effect.”

Parks says elected officials have an obligation to file accurate reports:

090911Parks2 :15 accurate as possible.”