Posts Tagged ‘campaign reports’

Assembly Democratic Caucus Campaign Report Provokes GOP Criticism, Response From Majority Leader

By Sean Whaley | 7:33 am October 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The state Assembly’s Democratic Caucus failed to disclose more than $120,000 in donations from its own members earlier this year, but a Democratic leader says they weren’t legally required to do so.

A dozen Assembly Democrats chipped in the funds in the first five months of this year, according to a review of the individual lawmakers’ campaign expenditure reports. But the donations weren’t disclosed by the caucus on its June 1 financial filing to the state.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the donations were made to reimburse the caucus for salaries of legislators’ staff and to pay the legislators’ dues in the caucus.

“All we have to report is our contributions,” he said. “To be more transparent, we should report everything but we’re not required to do it by law.”

He cited a 1998 legal interpretation from the secretary of state that said that the donations count as reimbursements and aren’t contributions required to be reported by the caucus.

The Nevada News Bureau was not able to immediately obtain a copy of the interpretation.

Oceguera said he has decided to change that policy, effective immediately, to report expenses as well.

The initial explanation was questioned, however, by Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei, an attorney and former state Senator from Carson City.

When told Assembly Democrats have an interpretation from the secretary of state’s office that was the basis for their reporting decisions, Amodei said: “That statement bears no resemblance to the applicable statutes.”

Nevada revised statutes on campaign practices do not use the word reimbursement, he said.

“If it’s an expense, it’s an expense,” he said. “There is no ethics opinion out there that says reimbursements don’t count. This caucus does not have a real strong track record looking back at what has occurred in recent history, when you see what members have used their campaign funds for.”

Outgoing Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, agreed earlier this year to make a $7,276 personal contribution to Safe Nest, a Las Vegas nonprofit supporting abused women, to cover the cost of the contribution she had made in 2009 to the Public Employees Retirement System from her campaign fund. The donation resolved a complaint filed with the secretary of state’s office that she inappropriately used campaign funds to pay for her Clark County retirement contributions while serving as a lawmaker.

Amodei said the real question is why the caucus felt the need to seek an advisory opinion on the issue in the first place.

Oceguera forwarded an email from Tuesday, a day before an inquiry was made about the caucus campaign report, saying he wants the operating expenses disclosed in the future. He directed staff to file an amended report for the second reporting period listing all operating expenses and to ensure future reports include the information as well. The filing deadline for the second report was Tuesday.

“Each caucus member has met the requirements for reporting as has the caucus,” Oceguera said. “However, I believe the caucus can do more, and should. We will file the amended reports quickly, beginning with an amendment to the October 26th report which I expect to have soon.

“I want to emphasize that are in full compliance, and always have been,” he said. “I believe we can go above and beyond that compliance in the public interest, and I’ve directed that we do so.”

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said as a member of the Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee for two sessions, he frequently heard calls for more openness in the reporting process.

“Unfortunately, it seems actions are much different than words,” he said.

Settelmeyer, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, said the Assembly Democratic Caucus reports signed by Oceguera clearly are incomplete.

“We’re all trying to be more transparent,” he said. “Obviously, even with the current rules we have, we lack some transparency.”

The campaign reports show that members of the Assembly Democratic caucus reported their caucus expenses on their campaign reports, but the expenses are not reflected on the caucus reports.

Oceguera, for example, reported three payments this year to the Assembly Democratic Caucus totaling more than $31,000 that were not reported on the caucus report. The payments were recorded on Oceguera’s campaign contribution and expense report filed June 1 as employee and miscellaneous expenses.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, contributed $10,548 to the caucus according to her campaign contribution and expense report. Again, the expenditure by the candidate was not reported as a contribution by the caucus.

Ten other Assembly Democrats made similar payments identified as campaign expenses, all of which they identified on their reports but none of which were reported by the caucus.

The unreported contributions from lawmakers total more than $122,000.

The first 2010 caucus report did reflect nearly $110,000 in contributions from other individuals and entities, and was signed by Oceguera on May 31.

The caucus’ 2009 annual report covering activity during the off-election year shows a similar situation, with nearly $90,000 in payments from Assembly Democrats not included. Again, Oceguera and other Assembly Democrats reported expenses to the caucus that were not reported as contributions on the caucus annual report.

A review of the dates of the 2009 contributions shows that over $17,000 was sent by lawmakers to their caucus during a blackout period when the organization cannot accept contributions.

Members of the Legislature as well as their political caucuses are prohibited from accepting contributions starting 30 days before a regular legislative session to 30 days after the end of a session according to Nevada law.

Oceguera said because the expenses identified by lawmakers are reimbursements, they do not fall under the contribution prohibitions.

Contributions or expenses in excess of $100 must be reported by candidates and caucuses as well as political action committees.

The reporting issues have come up just as candidates are in the final days of the hotly contested 2010 campaign. Assembly Democrats are trying to keep their 28-14 supermajority, while Republicans are seeking enough seats to take away their two-thirds edge.

State Lawmaker To File Campaign Report Before Early Voting, Challenges Other Candidates To Do The Same

By Sean Whaley | 3:40 pm September 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada state Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said today he will voluntarily file his campaign contribution and expense report before early voting begins to give the public adequate time to review the information.

Goedhart, who is running for re-election, said he is joining with Secretary of State Ross Miller in filing his report well ahead of the deadline now in state law.

Miller announced earlier this month he would voluntarily file early and electronically in support of legislation he will seek next session to improve public access to the information contained in the reports. Miller said he will also file a report four days before the general election detailing any contributions received by his campaign in excess of $1,000 after the initial report filing.

Campaign reports from candidates are not due now until Oct. 26, 10 days after early voting begins and only a few days before the Nov. 2 general election.

“There are legitimate concerns surrounding the disclosure of the identities of donors to political campaigns, especially when incumbent legislators are in a position to threaten, either subtly or overtly, retaliation against citizens who contribute to an opposing candidate,” Goedhart said.

“However, if the law requires disclosure, then such disclosure should be done in a timely fashion that provides voters the information they need to make an informed decision at the ballot box before they vote,” he said. “If we’re going to have early voting, then we need to have early disclosure.”

In addition to filing his report before early voting begins Oct. 16, Goedhart said he will also report contributions of $100 or more on his campaign website within 48 hours of receipt through election day.

He challenged other candidates to file early as well.

“We’re never going to get government to be fiscally responsible if we are not transparent and accountable,” Goedhart said.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says he will report his contributions ahead of early voting and update the information through election day:

092810Goedhart1 :17 $100 or more.”

Goedhart says transparency will lead to fiscal responsibility:

092810Goedhart2 :05 transparent and accountable.”

Goedhart says reporting law must reflect popularity of early voting:

092810Goedhart3 :12 reality of voting.”

Assembly Leadership Says Reforms to Campaign Finance Reporting Will Wait

By Sean Whaley | 4:26 pm September 20th, 2010

CARSON CITY – While Secretary of State Ross Miller has announced he will voluntarily post his campaign contribution and expense report early so voters can review the information prior to casting their ballots in the Nov. 2 general election, other candidates are not ready to follow suit.

Both Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera and Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea said there are too many issues involved for them to recommend to their caucuses and candidates to file the reports in mid-October before early voting begins.

Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said changes to the reporting process need to be thoroughly considered by the 2011 Legislature before they can be implemented.

“I have a lot of questions,” he said. “We need to take a long hard look at the total ramifications of any changes.”

Goicoechea said there is a lot at stake for both parties in the legislative elections in November, with Assembly Republicans looking to increase their number to take away a veto-proof 28-seat majority now held by Democrats.

A problem with early reporting of contributions is that the opposing party would see which races a caucus was focusing on, he said.

“We have to show not only where the contributions come from, but where we’re spending the money,” Goicoechea said. “It makes it difficult.”

In an email response to a question about whether Assembly Democrats would follow Miller’s example and post their reports early, Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said any reforms to the filing of campaign contribution and expense reports must be uniformly applied to everyone. In addition, many of the Democrat candidates running for Assembly seats in the November general election do not have the staff or financing to prepare such reports ahead of time, he said.

“Of the 42 Democratic candidates for state Assembly, many have submitted handwritten reports because they don’t have the staff or financing to prepare accurate reports at a moment’s notice during the busiest time in their campaign,” Oceguera said.

Miller has requested legislation to move up the reporting dates for the contribution and expense reports, saying they don’t come out now until early voting is well under way. Miller also wants reports filed electronically so they can be easily searched by the public.

So 21 days before the Nov. 2 general election, Miller said he will electronically file his campaign contribution and expenditure report online for the public to review. In keeping with his proposed legislation, Miller will also file a report four days before the general election detailing any contributions received by his campaign in excess of $1,000 after the initial report filing.

Oceguera has proposed an alternative for consideration by the 2011 Legislature which would require reporting of contributions within 72 hours of receipt.

“I believe my proposal of switching over to online filing of contributions and expenditures within 72 hours gives even more transparency, and all filings are automatically searchable,” he said. “With my proposal we accomplish both goals at once and the rules apply to everyone.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, did not respond to a request for comment.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he has not asked his caucus members who are running for re-election in this cycle about voluntarily reporting contributions and expenditures ahead of the deadline. Raggio is in the middle of his term and is not up for re-election this year.

Raggio said he has no problem with earlier reporting as long as the process does not become a trap for candidates who might forget and miss a deadline by one day. But he said any reporting changes should apply to everyone, including political action committees that spend money on behalf of candidates or on issues.

“There is no harm in doing it, but I think the information is of more interest to the media than the public,” Raggio said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller to File His Campaign Contribution And Expense Report Early

By Sean Whaley | 2:02 pm September 14th, 2010

CARSON CITY – In an effort to convince his fellow elected officials that filing campaign contribution and expenditure reports online and before early voting is not too onerous for candidates, Secretary of State Ross Miller said he will do so voluntarily in advance of the Nov. 2 general election.

Miller has submitted a bill draft request for consideration by the 2011 Legislature to move the filing dates of the reports up so the information would be available to residents before they vote. Miller, who sought similar legislation without success in 2009, also wants the reports filed electronically so voters and others can search the information more easily.

Currently many of the reports are handwritten and they are not searchable.

Miller, who is running for a second term as secretary of state, said he will use himself as an example on how following his proposed legislation will not cause any great inconvenience or  create any great disadvantage for candidates.

So 21 days before the Nov. 2 general election, Miller said he will electronically file his campaign contribution and expenditure report online for the public to review. In keeping with his proposed legislation, Miller will also file a report four days before the general election detailing any contributions received by his campaign in excess of $1,000 after the initial report filing.

“Transparency in campaign finance is always one of our biggest priorities and we’re always ranked near the bottom if not the worst in terms of the disclosure that we have in place,” he said.

Miller said one of the objections raised to the proposal in 2009 by some lawmakers was that the online filing was too onerous for some candidates.

“In order to try to rebut that claim, I’m going to go ahead and comply with the proposed statute this election cycle,” he said. “Hopefully it will establish that it really isn’t that difficult.”

The way the law reads now, the reports are not due until Oct. 26, seven days before the general election, and they can be mailed in, meaning they may not be available on the secretary of state’s website until just a day or two before the election. This existing deadline is also well after early voting has begun. The majority of people now vote early, Miller said.

Early voting in the upcoming general election begins Oct. 16.

Miller’s proposal is one of several related to the filing of campaign contribution and expense reports that will be considered by the Legislature next year.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said Democrats will seek a change to the law requiring the filing of every financial contribution, including the amount and name of donor, online within 72 hours of receipt by the candidate.

“We’re open to reaching some sort of compromise,” Miller said. “The most important component of the legislation is to make sure the reports are filed electronically.”

The way it is now, with a 100-page handwritten report on the internet, is not helpful to voters, he said.

Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, also has submitted a bill draft to move the reporting deadlines to before early voting.

Republican secretary of state candidate Rob Lauer could not immediately be reached for comment on Miller’s proposed legislation. In his response to a transparency questionnaire sent out by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, Lauer initially indicated opposition to the filing of campaign reports so the data can be searched. He subsequently changed his answer to support for the idea.

Independent American Party candidate John Wagner also indicated support for the idea in the NPRI candidate survey.

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Audio clips:

Miller says Nevada ranks low in transparency for campaign reports:

091410Miller1 :14 some legislation through.”

Miller says the most important component is to make sure the reports are filed electronically:

091410Miller2 :17 on specific data.”

Miller says he will file his campaign report early and update it to show the process is not onerous for candidates:

091410Miller3 :32 submit another report.”

Nevada Assembly Majority Leader Says Public Transparency Issues Will Be Major Focus Of 2011 Session

By Sean Whaley | 6:21 am September 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera said yesterday he will pursue a number of transparency measures in the 2011 legislative session with an eye towards providing the public with accountability and confidence in how the state spends taxpayer dollars.

Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats have been working on a number of ideas since last session, including a two-year “cooling off” period before former state lawmakers and other officials could work as lobbyists.

Oceguera, who is expected to be elected speaker for the 2011 session, said Assembly Democrats want to go even further than some other proposals for a cooling off law to include state regulators and local government officials as well.

“Some of these ideas were part of a bill last session that didn’t make it out of the Senate but made it out of the Assembly,” he said. “So it has been on our radar since at least last session and we’ve tried to refine it and look at what we think we can get passed. But some of the issues we’re going to pass out of the Assembly one way or the other.”

The cooling off proposal predates the recent controversy over former Assemblyman Morse Arberry, who resigned to accept a lobbying contract with the Clark County District Court. The contract was rejected earlier this week by the Clark County Commission.

In announcing the proposals earlier in the week, Oceguera said: “We’re serious about reforming the way Nevada government does its business. Today, we are putting a series of reforms before the public. They are common sense and timely measures, and I will work for bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate.”

Among the reforms Assembly Democrats will pursue include:

- Establishing a two-year cooling off period before an elected official can be hired to lobby the government body where the individual served;

- Creating a two-year cooling off period before an elected official or regulator can be hired to work for any agency they regulated or oversaw;

- Putting the state’s checkbook online where taxpayers can see how tax dollars are spent;

- Putting the entire state budget on the web so taxpayers can see spending priorities;

- Requiring all candidates for public office to report every financial contribution, the amount and donor, online within 72 hours of receipt.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has created a transparency page on state government spending on his website, so at least some of the state budget and spending information is already available to the public.

Oceguera said the Assembly Democrat proposal for reporting campaign contributions goes even further than what is being sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, who wants earlier reporting of contributions and expenditures as well. Miller also wants reports filed electronically so the public can search the information more easily.

Oceguera said he and Miller worked closely on other measures in 2009 and will likely do so on the campaign reports transparency issue in the upcoming session as well.

Efforts to improve the reporting and usefulness of campaign reports have ended in failure in the past. A proposal to require online reporting for most officials passed the Assembly in 2009 but the provision was deleted in a Senate Committee by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

Transparency has become an issue for many lawmakers on many different fronts. Many of those running for seats in the state Senate and Assembly have responded to a transparency questionnaire sent out by the Nevada Policy Research Institute. It asks candidates for their views on the posting of state spending information online as well as the need for a searchable database for campaign contributions, among other issues.

Other lawmakers have previously weighed in with their own proposals, including Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, who has proposed a four-year cooling off period for lawmakers and statewide elected officials who want to become lobbyists.

Goedhart also wants a three-day wait before bills are voted on by the Legislature, another transparency proposal included on the NPRI candidate questionnaire.

Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, has weighed in with his own plan to change the campaign report filing deadlines to make the reports more useful to voters. He introduced similar legislation in 2009 that did not get a hearing.

Democrat candidate for governor Rory Reid in December released an ethics reform plan that includes a call for a two-year cooling off period before former lawmakers or state employees can represent private interests at the Legislature.

Twenty-six states have such laws. Nevada does not.

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Audio clips:

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera says the Assembly will work to get transparency measures passed next session:

090910Oceguera1 :22 or the other.”

Oceguera says Assembly cooling off law would go further than what others are suggesting:

090910Oceguera2 :23 are talking about.”