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September 1998 – Shameful Attempt to Rollback Campaign Disclosure Laws

For release September 28, 1998


Campaign finance reformers are reacting strongly to a move by state House Republicans to reveal less information, less often about who pays for campaigns in North Carolina.

“This is a sudden and shameful attempt to undercut the improvements in disclosure that citizens fought hard to win last year,” said Warren Murphy, president of the N.C. Alliance for Democracy, a coalition of groups backing comprehensive campaign finance reform.

Last week, two House committees quickly passed major revisions in bills that had sat idle for months. The Rules Committee and the Elections Law Committee each replaced existing language with one virtually identical bill that could come to a vote on the House floor this week.

The bill includes numerous provisions, some endorsed by campaign finance advocates.

But reformers strongly oppose two measures they call “an attack on the public’s right to know.” They would (1) reduce the number of disclosure reports filed, returning to the pre-1997 schedule; and (2) raise the threshold for disclosing who gives money, from those giving over $100 to donors giving over $250.

“The new bill would mean we get no disclosure for six months, from 10 days before the primary to 10 days before the general election,” said Murphy. “It also means hundreds of donations from $101 to $250 would just be listed as ‘miscellaneous,’ even though we know that many of them are now part of bundles from a special interest seeking favors from lawmakers.”

The Alliance prepared a hand-out for the legislature that listed scores of examples of bundled donations in the $125-$250 range, given in the 1996 election by medical professionals and other groups who collect multiple donations and forward them together to a candidate.

The Alliance hand-out claims House Republicans want to “censor” vital information previously provided to voters. “The new law has just gone into effect,” Murphy pointed out. “Republican said they favor disclosure, but their actions speaks louder than their words.”

Provisions in the bill that many reformers favor include a “stand by ad” measure originally promoted by Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, a rewrite of the definition of “political committee” to meet U.S. Supreme Court standards, and new regulations of “issue ads.” But reformers said none of these is worth pursuing now in exchange for losing disclosure provisions, especially since the General Assembly will reconvene in only a few months.

“The Republicans are offering a poison bill, surrounded with a sugar coating,” Murphy noted. “We won’t take the bait. It’s a killer.”