Repeal of Aggregate PAC Limit Launched from House Committee

Legislation that repeals limits on the total amount of political money lawmakers can take from political action committees and corporations was approved in a committee this morning and sent on toward a House floor vote later today.
The bill, HB3281, was approved in the Senate earlier this year, but had been stalled in the House State and Local Government Committee. Sponsor Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, at one point took it “off notice,” which is usually an indication that a bill is being abandoned.
But today – which lawmakers hope will be the final day of the 107th General Assembly – Casada brought the bill before the committee. It was approved on a 6-4 vote, sending it on to a vote of the full House. In the final days of a session, normal rules don’t apply, so the bill can be sent to a floor vote on the same day it comes out of committee.
Casada also successfully added a new amendment — not included in the Senate version — that gives corporations more freedom in how to structure their political donations.
Basically, they can opt to act as individuals, which means they are bound by lower limits on how much can be given to a single candidate but then don’t have to disclose the donation themselves. Or, they can opt to be treated as a PAC, meaning higher amounts can be donated to a single candidate, but they would have disclose the donations.
“Money is speech. You limit it, you limit our ability to reach out,” said Casada.
Currently, state law says legislative candidates can accept no more than $107,200 per election – or $214,400 in a primary and general election combined – from PACS. The bill repeals that “aggregate limit” so candidates can take as much money as PACs and corporations, which are treated like PACs under the law, will give them.
The amount a PAC or corporation can give in each individual contribution is not changed by the bill. A PAC can give an individual candidate for the House $7,100 per election; a candidate for the Senate $10,700.
In contrast, an individual person cannot give more than $1,400 to a candidate per election.
Democrats criticized both the bill itself and what House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner called the “last hour” push to enact it into law. Turner said the bill will lessen the importance of the “average guy” and increase the importance of big corporations and their PACs in electing legislators.

Note: A Registry of Election Finance memo on the current law and limits, as revised last year, is HERE.

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