Posts Tagged ‘campaign finance’

Former Assembly Speaker Maintains Big Campaign Fund Despite Not Running For Office

By Sean Whaley | 4:14 pm June 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley may not be a candidate for public office this year, but this apparent lack of political ambition has not stopped her from maintaining a campaign fund worth nearly half a million dollars.

Buckley, a Democrat who left office following the 2010 general election, has used the broad definition of a candidate in state law to maintain her election fund. In her annual Campaign Contributions and Expenses Report for the calendar year 2010 filed in January 2011, Buckley reported that her campaign fund totaled just under $575,000.

On the same date the fund total was reported, Jan 7, 2011, her report also shows a $200 contribution from colleague Sheila Leslie, a former member of the Assembly and current candidate for the state Senate in Washoe County.

Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley.

By receiving the $200 contribution, Buckley is defined in Nevada state law as being a candidate for public office, even though she did not seek office in 2010 and is not seeking office this year. She was termed out of the Assembly in 2010 after serving since 1995.

Buckley considered a run for governor in 2010 but ultimately decided against it. The finance reports identify her as a candidate, but they do not specify an office.

Buckley said today she has continued to maintain the fund in the event she does decide to run for public office in 2014 or 2016, and that she relied on advice from the Legislative Counsel Bureau and the Secretary of State’s office before doing so.

But Buckley said she has no definite political plans currently.

“I have no idea,” she said. “To be honest with you, the longer I’m out, the more I wonder if I will ever run for anything ever again. And so if I choose not to run for anything in the near future I will dispose of all of the money by giving it to either other candidates, parties, nonprofit organizations as outlined in the statute.”

Buckley said she has been fully transparent with all money received and spent from her campaign fund in her filings with the Secretary of State’s office.

Scott Gilles, deputy secretary for elections with the Secretary of State’s office, said via an email response that Nevada law allows a candidate to use donations in the candidate’s next election, which does not have to be in the next election cycle.

Nevada state law also defines a candidate as an individual who has received a contribution in excess of $100, “regardless of whether the person has filed a declaration of candidacy” and regardless of whether the person’s name appears on a ballot.

News of Buckley’s active and financially healthy campaign fund comes as members of the Assembly Republican Caucus have called for more transparency and reforms to the state’s campaign finance laws. One of the reforms outlined by caucus leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, would require ending fund balance reports showing how much money incumbents have on hand after an election.

Buckley’s campaign fund of over $575,000, for example, is reported on her 2011 annual filing for calendar year 2010, but is not found anywhere in the 2011 or 2012 reports. Nor is the information required to be included on the more recent reports under current rules.

Buckley said she would be in favor of better organizing such information on the Secretary of State’s website to make it more easily accessible by the public.

But Hickey said Buckley’s decision to maintain a campaign fund even while not seeking public office shows why greater transparency and accountability is needed in Nevada’s campaign finance laws.

“This example by the former speaker of the Assembly, still having that much money on hand and continuing to give out that money, I assume to Democratic candidates, really underscores the need for us to re-examine how we report on campaign money and how we conduct ourselves after we leave the Legislature,” he said.

“We should be asking ourselves whether or not it is appropriate for former lawmakers to keep large amounts of money and be able to disburse those funds into the political process,” Hickey said.

Buckley also worked as a paid lobbyist for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada in the 2011 legislative session. Buckley, an attorney, is executive director of the center. Serving as a lobbyist and donating to candidates is not a conflict, she said.

People who appear before the Legislature give campaign contributions all the time, Buckley said.

Buckley has continued to file her finance reports with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, which show she had expenses of just over $35,000 in 2011, mostly consisting of contributions to nonprofit organizations. She continues to identify herself in the reports as a candidate.

In her first report for 2012 filed in May, she reports another nearly $40,000 in contributions, including many donations to candidates. Leslie, who is facing Republican Greg Brower in the Senate 15 race this year, received $8,700 in cash from Buckley. She also received a nearly $1,300 in-kind contribution from Buckley.

Deducting these expenses totaling about $75,000 from her political fund still leaves Buckley with about $500,000 in cash on hand.

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Audio clips:

Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley says she has maintained her campaign fund in the event she decides to run for public office in the next two to four years:

061112Buckley1 :12 anything ever again.”

Buckley says that if she decides not to run for elective office, she will dispose of the funds as outlined in state law:

061112Buckley2 :18 in the statute.”

 

Nevada Secretary Of State Launches Aurora, A Searchable Database For Campaign Finance Information

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:05 pm January 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada voters can now be better informed than ever before with the Wednesday launch of Aurora, a user-friendly, searchable database for all campaign and public officer finance disclosures, Secretary of State Ross Miller said today.

Aurora, which can be accessed directly through the Secretary of State’s homepage, will provide a new level of insight into who is funding campaigns, and how those funds are being spent, he said.

“We named it Aurora because it provides illumination as to how campaigns and our elected representatives are funded,” Miller said. “A healthy, vital democracy requires well-informed voters, and Aurora offers voters the opportunity to get more information more quickly, and consequently make better informed decisions at the polls.

“Aurora is a logical extension to the new campaign filing laws that went into effect Jan. 1 of this year,” he said. “As a result of Assembly Bill 452, passed in the last Legislature, candidates are now required to report their campaign contribution and expense reports, and financial disclosure statements electronically with my office. So it makes sense to have that information as accessible as possible to Nevada voters.”

Aurora includes many new features not previously available to Nevada. It will allow users to search and sort all filed Contributions & Expense (C&E) Reports and Financial Disclosure Statements (FDS), and also has the ability to export search results into Excel, CSV and PDF formats for additional sorting and usage.

The Contribution Search and Expenditure Search functions will allow users to search results by the following criteria:
- Individual Candidates
- Political Races
- Groups
- Contributions, including by amount, date range and similar addresses
- Contributors
- Expenditure Recipients

Aurora will also include future expanded services offered by other divisions of the Secretary of State’s office.

Secretary of State Ross Miller.

“We’re maximizing the potential of our (Information Technology) capacity,” Miller said. “In all the divisions in my office, digital services are our best opportunity to serve the most Nevadans effectively and efficiently.”

Additional enhancements planned for later phases of Aurora include:
- More user-friendly filing features
- Resident Agent Searches
- Penalties Searches
- Hotlinks to the corporate details pages for corporate contributors and recipients
- Reports comparing original v. amended reports
- Online Group Registrations (e.g. Political Action Committees)

Deployment of Aurora will begin at 12 a.m. tonight following the close of the current FDS and C&E Report filing period. The system will be offline for a short time period during deployment and will be up and fully functioning by the start of business on Wednesday. Aurora is and will continue to be a technological build completed solely by the Secretary of State’s Information Technology staff at no additional cost to taxpayers.

As the state’s chief elections officer, Miller said he supports fair and transparent campaigns in an effort to restore the public’s faith in the electoral process.

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Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the current search process is difficult:

011712Miller1 :17 pages of reports.”

Miller says the new searchable database will bring a whole new level of transparency to campaign finance:

011712Miller2 :21 campaign finance transparency.”

 

Two Major Campaign Finance Reform Bills On Way To Governor

By Sean Whaley | 1:40 pm June 2nd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Two major bills seeking reforms to and transparency in Nevada’s campaign finance laws have seen final approval in the Legislature and are now on their way to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his consideration.

Assembly Bills 82 and 452 are two of three campaign finance reform measures sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller in the 2011 session.

The third, Assembly Bill 81, remains to be reconciled between the two houses. The Assembly did not accept a Senate amendment to the bill.

AB82, which would allow a county to establish an electronic voter registration system, was amended to include a provision prohibiting candidates from accepting campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

The amendment was sought by Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in response to a controversy over a separate bill seeking to legalize Internet poker in Nevada. Several lawmakers received contributions from PokerStars, the foreign-based company seeking the measure. Most lawmakers receiving the contributions said they were unaware the company, based in the Isle of Man, was foreign.

Federal law prohibits contributions from foreign nationals, but Nevada’s law was not clear on the issue.

AB452 would require on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and require earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

Reports would be filed four days before early voting and would be updated to reflect any additional contributions and expenses four days prior to the primary and general elections.

It would also make the Secretary of State’s office the central repository for the campaign reports for all elections, as well as for financial disclosure statements required of candidates and elected officials. These reports would also be filed electronically.

The information would be maintained in a searchable database so the public could review the reports in a simple and comprehensive way.

AB81 contains a provision restricting the creation of political action committees to circumvent limits on how much money can be contributed to a campaign as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his failed race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal.

Another section of the bill would allow for bigger financial penalties if a third-party group spends money in a Nevada campaign without filing the required disclosure information.

Major Campaign Finance Reform Bill Clears Senate Committee Hurdle

By Sean Whaley | 8:28 pm May 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – CARSON CITY – A bill seeking major reforms to Nevada’s campaign finance laws won approval from a Senate panel today after controversial provisions requiring a two-year cooling off period from lobbying by former public officials were stripped from the measure.

Assembly Bill 452 was approved by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee with Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, voting no.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote. The bill has already been passed by the Assembly. If approved by the full Senate, the different versions of the bill will have to be reconciled between the two houses before it could go to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.

Sandoval has said he supports the idea of electronic filing of campaign reports.

The vote by the committee came one day before a deadline for action on most bills.

The bill sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller would require on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and require earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

Reports would be filed four days before early voting and would be updated to reflect any additional contributions and expenses four days prior to the primary and general elections.

It would also make the Secretary of State’s office the central repository for the campaign reports for all elections, as well as for financial disclosure statements required of candidates and elected officials. These reports would also be filed electronically.

The information would be maintained in a searchable database so the public could review the reports in a simple and comprehensive way.

In testimony before the panel earlier this session, Miller said: “A big part of the transparency we want to provide is letting voters know who is funding the campaigns. The reasons of course are obvious, and the need is equally obvious, even to those outside of Nevada.”

Miller said Nevada consistently receives an “F” grade from the Campaign Disclosure Project by the UCLA School of Law for the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws because of the lack of transparency.

Miller tried to get similar legislation through the 2009 session but a final version of the bill was not approved as time ran out.

The cooling off provisions in the bill, which would have prohibited a former lawmaker from lobbying the Legislature for pay for two years, were removed after concerns were expressed by Crystal Jackson, executive director of the Public Utilities Commission. The proposed cooling off provisions applied to PUC commissioners and others public officers as well.

Jackson said extending the current one-year cooling off period for the PUC to two years could make it difficult to recruit key staff.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, told the Senate panel that his committee could accept the removal of the cooling off provisions. There are so many other important provisions in the bill that the cooling off sections should not hold the measure up, he said.

The provisions, which were not sought by Miller, had already proved an issue for some lawmakers, including Assemblyman Horne, D-Las Vegas, an attorney, who objected to them in Assembly hearings, saying he would be prohibited from representing a client in the Legislature if he left office.

“I have a fundamental disagreement with some of my colleagues that you should prohibit someone from doing what they’re gainfully employed to do,” Horne said.

Nevada Campaign Finance Reform Bills Get Senate Committee Hearing

By Sean Whaley | 6:36 pm May 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – An ambitious effort to make major reforms to Nevada’s campaign finance laws moved to the state Senate today after three measures sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller passed the Assembly by a deadline last month.

The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections took testimony on Assembly Bills 81, 82 and 452 but delayed action on the measures, which would make a number of reforms to Nevada campaign finance law.

A number of concerns were raised about elements of the measures by members of the public who testified. But witnesses also praised sections of the measures, which were amended extensively in the Assembly.

Opposition testimony did not for the most part take aim at what Secretary of State Ross Miller considers the most important elements of the measures, contained in AB452, requiring on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

“A big part of the transparency we want to provide is letting voters know who is funding the campaigns,” Miller said. “The reasons of course are obvious, and the need is equally obvious, even to those outside of Nevada.”

Miller said Nevada received an “F” grade from the Campaign Disclosure Project by the UCLA School of Law in 2008 for the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, the same grade received in the project’s four previous reports.

“In the real world there is a term for that, it’s called flunking out,” he said. “I’m not going to flunk out, I don’t think any of you here want to, and there is absolutely no reason Nevadans should tolerate any kind of excuses that lead to that type of performance.”

The measures cover other issues as well.

Assembly Bill 81 contains a provision restricting the creation of political action committees to circumvent limits on how much money can be contributed to a campaign as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal.

Assembly Bill 82 contains a provision allowing for on-line voter registration, a proposal endorsed by Jan Gilbert, representing the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, who said it would increase the number of voters and lead to improved voter turnout.

AB452 also contains a controversial provision requiring a two-year cooling off period before a former lawmaker could be paid to work as a lobbyist in the Legislature, a section not sought by Miller and which was a concern for some members of the Assembly.

Some of those testifying on the bills expressed concerns about a section of AB81 that imposes reporting requirements on groups or individuals spending more than $100 for or against a candidate.

Janine Hansen, representing the Independent American Party, said the provision is an unwarranted effort to regulate free speech, including anonymous free speech.

“Anonymous free speech is part of American history and it is an important thing to protect,” she said.

Those seeking more transparency in the campaign and election process should be seeking more, not less, free speech, Hansen said.

Miller said the provision is intended to fix the most comment election complaint received by his office, that of the anonymous political mailer or television attack ad. The proposed language is not a First Amendment battle because it is taken from requirements used by other jurisdictions, he said.

It is a reasonable response to address the clear abuse of anonymous mailers sent out during campaign season, Miller said.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says most important provisions are in AB452:

050511Miller1 :22 maintaining these filings.”

Miller says the measures would let voters know who is funding the campaigns:

050511Miller2 :09 outside of Nevada.”

Miller says Nevada’s current campaign finance disclosure laws are failing:

050511Miller3 :08 type of performance.”

 

 

Secretary Of State Presents Campaign Finance And Election Reform Package To Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 6:53 pm March 1st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller made his pitch for campaign finance reform before an Assembly committee today, saying that while his two bills are extensive and complex at 155 pages combined, the many provisions are necessary because, “we are behind the curve.”

Miller, in testimony before the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, said Nevada should provide increased transparency to voters about the campaign contributions and expenses of the candidates for public office.

The committee took no immediate action on the measures.

“This legislation has a lot in it – I get it – 155 pages of legislation, but it has a lot in it because we are behind the curve,” Miller said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller
Photo: Cathleen Allison/ NevadaPhotoSource.com

Of all the provisions in the two bills, the requirement of electronic filing of  campaign contribution and expense reports, the change in deadlines to make the filings more useful to the public, and having the secretary of state’s office be the single entity to maintain the information, are the most important, he said.

“If you remember only one thing from this package, it’s that those three things alone would send voters a message that transparency is a priority in our campaign and election processes, and the three go hand-in-hand toward increasing accessibility,” Miller said.

Nevada has consistently received poor grades for its transparency on election reform efforts, including an “F” in 2008 from the Campaign Disclosure Project.

Assembly Bills 81 and 82 would require online reporting of campaign contribution and expense reports so the data could be searched by voters. Filing deadlines would also be moved up so the reports would be filed before early voting begins.

The two measures would also provide for online voter registration, a process Miller said is more secure than the current use of voter registration cards. The bills would also increase fines for violation of voter registration laws.

Filing fees for candidates would also be increased for the first time in 20 years, to $3,000 from the current $500 for U.S. Senate candidates, and to $300 from $100 for legislative candidates. Other filing fees would increase as well.

Members of the Assembly panel asked questions and voiced some concerns, particularly about the increased penalties proposed for voter registration violations because of the many volunteers who perform such work, but there was no clear opposition expressed to the measures by lawmakers.

Several members of the audience testified in support of the proposal to require on-line filing of campaign reports by candidates, including Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said he supported the electronic filing of campaign reports, both to save employee costs and because of the improved transparency for the voting public.

But not everybody was in favor of the bills.

Lynn Chapman, Washoe County chairwoman of the Independent American Party, said the increased fees proposed in AB81 would be a hardship on some candidates, including herself. She ran unsuccessfully for Washoe County Public Administrator in 2010. The new fees would require $300 to file, up from $100 now, for a county office.

Janine Hansen, state president of the Nevada Eagle Forum and a candidate for the Assembly in the 2010 election, said the bills favor the rich and powerful.

“The secretary of state’s election bills, AB81 and AB82, secure the advantages for the rich, powerful incumbents and candidates anointed by the ‘powers that be,’ ” she said. “These twin bills are dangerous to the democratic election process.”

Hansen also objected to the increase in filing fees, saying they would be a disadvantage to challengers and minor party candidates.

“Has the secretary of state become a revenuer instead of an elections official?” she said.

Miller said the filing fees have not been raised in 20 years and do not cover costs. He said the filing fees would not keep candidates from seeking public office, and that candidates could gather signatures to qualify for the ballot instead.

A number of other speakers, both in Carson City and Las Vegas, voiced opposition to the bills on many different grounds, including the increase in filing fees. Some critics characterized the measures as a “power grab” by Miller’s office.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says his election bills are lengthy because Nevada is behind the curve:

030111Miller1 :10 behind the curve.”

Miller says electronic filing of campaign reports, earlier filing of reports and having his office in charge of the information, are the most important elements of the reform package:

030111Miller2 :14 toward increasing accessibility.”

Bipartisan Support Offers Good Chance For Campaign Finance Reform In 2011 Session

By Sean Whaley | 1:40 pm February 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller says the time is ripe to get a substantial campaign finance reform package through the Legislature, and with Gov. Brian Sandoval and lawmakers of both parties in agreement on the need for change, he may be right.

“I believe we probably have the best chance to pass meaningful campaign finance reform this session than in any other cycle we’ve had,” Miller said.

“Every time an outside group comes in and gives Nevada an ‘F’ and ranks us dead last in terms of campaign finance transparency, the single biggest complaint that they have is that we allow for handwritten, paper-based reports that can be sent in often times a day or so before the election,” he said. “In a state where well over half the people will vote early, that’s not helpful to anybody.”

Miller’s reform measures, Assembly Bills 81 and 82, were introduced on the first day of the session on Monday. AB82 would require candidates in most cases to file their campaign contribution and expense reports electronically so the public could easily review the information in a searchable database.

Assembly Bill 81 would require the reports to be filed four days ahead of early voting, with an update due the Friday prior to the primary and general election days. Currently the reports are filed just seven days before the primary and general elections, well after many Nevadans have already cast their ballots. The reports can also be mailed in, making the information even less useful to voters.

Miller said the idea is to get the information out to the public at the appropriate time, and in a format that would allow voters to examine the reports in a convenient way.

“The current structure is a disaster and we deserve the ‘F’ we get every cycle,” he said. “This legislation I don’t think will move us to an ‘A’ but I would be happy with a ‘C’ at this point. I would be happy with a passing grade.”

Efforts to require electronic filing of the reports have failed in past sessions due to opposition by some lawmakers.

Sandoval supports electronic filing as well.

In a statement from his office in response to a query about the measures, spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said: “We’re still reviewing the full bills as they cover many election issues, but we do support the electronic filing because it has the potential to put the information in the hands of voters earlier in the campaign. We’ll continue to monitor these bills and other campaign measures.”

Sandoval said he has been in conversation with Miller on the need for campaign and election reform.

“I know there are some items that I’m going to be supportive of within his package,” he said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who had initially indicated he might pursue his own measure, said instead he will likely use Miller’s bills as a starting point for implementing needed reforms. Oceguera said he is optimistic the Legislature will adopt needed changes to the reporting process.

Oceguera said he has not yet read Miller’s proposals, but does conceptually support reforms.

“We should be as transparent as possible,” he said.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she is optimistic as well that reforms will succeed this session.

“We do everything online now,” she said of her campaign reports. “So I’m there. I’m up with technology and so I have no problems with it. I support Ross Miller and the changes that he wants and I think it is going to be fine.

“There is no reason not to do it,” said Cegavske, a member of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee that will hear the bills later in the session.

In addition to the bipartisan support, some opponents of the reforms are no longer serving in the Legislature, which could also improve chances for passage.

Former Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, made the motion to delete the electronic filing requirement in Miller’s campaign bill in the last days of the 2009 session. The Assembly had already weakened the requirement by postponing its effective date to 2011 so it would not affect the 2010 campaign season.

In this session, the two bills have now been referred to the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Miller said a proposal requiring the reporting of large contributions within 72 hours within 21 days of an election is not part of his reform package this session.

There was some opposition to the idea from some elected officials who said it was too burdensome, he said.

Oceguera said in September he would seek such a change to state law this session, but in comments earlier this week he appeared to back off the idea.

The Nevada Legislature is made up of citizens who have regular jobs, families and other commitments, he said.

“You should report those as quickly as you possibly can, but I don’t know if 72 hours is the appropriate number,” Oceguera said. “Maybe we give people 10 days or two weeks.”

Miller said he is making the reform proposals a priority for his office, and is engaged in public outreach to drum up support for the changes, including a Facebook page. Past efforts at reform may have failed in part because lawmakers did not get any sense that the public was concerned about the need for the changes, he said.

“It is a modest step forward to mandate that these reports be filed electronically,” he said. “It does not create any additional burden on elected officials or candidates, and while at the same time would be a giant leap forward in putting more transparency in place.”

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says 2011 session is best chance to pass campaign reforms in long time:

021011Miller1 :10 cycle we’ve had.”

Miller says electronic filing of campaign reports is absolutely necessary:

021011Miller2 :24 before the election.”

Miller says failure to use electronic filing is why the state gets bad grades for campaign finance reform:

021011Miller3 :22 before the election.”

Miller says current process is not helpful to anyone:

021011Miller4 :22 before the election.”

Miller says his proposals are modest but would be giant leap forward for transparency:

021011Miller5 :25 transparency in place.”

Miller says the current reporting process is a disaster:

021011Miller6 :05 get every cycle.”

Miller says his reforms will at least give the state a passing grade for campaign reform:

021011Miller7 :09 a passing grade.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval says there are proposals in Miller’s bills that he will support:

021011Sandoval :04 within his package.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says a 72-hour reporting requirement for some contributions may be too burdensome:

021011Oceguera :12 go to work.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says she supports Miller’s electronic filing requirement:

021011Cegavske :08 to be fine.”