Ramsey: Campaign Finance Bill ‘Straw that Broke Camel’s Back’

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey acknowledges the failure of his campaign finance bill in the GOP-run House this year is part of the reason he decided to stop joint fundraising with the other chamber, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Speaking after the legislative session ended April 19, the Blountville lawmaker said while the split had “been in the works for a long time, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“But,” Ramsey added, “I think it would have happened anyway.”
Among other things, the bill would have eliminated a requirement that corporations report political contributions to candidates as well as political parties and legislative caucuses.
Proponents of lifting the reporting requirement argued it wasn’t needed because candidates report their contributions.
Democratic critics charged that canceling the requirement would eliminate an important accounting cross-check and could lead to candidates simply pocketing corporate cash.
Despite the GOP’s 70-member supermajority in the House, the bill received just 48 votes, all from Republicans. That was short of the 50 votes necessary for passage.
Twenty-two Republicans voted no, abstained or didn’t vote. (Harwell didn’t vote.
…”I just, philosophically, just didn’t feel supportive of that measure,” Harwell told reporters last week. “But I have given everyone fair notice that that was my stand.”
Asked to elaborate, Harwell said, “I have trouble with a company being able to give me money and only I am the reporter. So I think there needed to be a proper check that the company would have to report to. … [If] XYZ Company gave me $10,000, I only reported $5,000, where would the [cross] check be?”
She said the bill’s House sponsor, Republican Glen Casada, of Franklin, has indicated he intends to bring it up again next year.
Proponents shrug off concerns about contributions being reported.
But the state’s Registry of Election Finance found legislative candidates failed to report about 2.5 percent of contributions made by political action committees and corporations in 2012.
Candidates are required to correct omissions, on pain of fines. If the correction is timely, and if the omissions don’t exceed two per year and are less than $2,000 collectively, the registry takes no action.
Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state’s Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, called the 2.5 percent figure for nonreporting low. He attributed discrepancies to honest mistakes by candidates.
“Sometimes candidates make a list of all contributions and one may get left off. Sometimes what happens is that a candidate has lost a deposit slip or something like that so anything that’s on that deposit slip may not have gotten reported,” Rawlins said.


Note: For related Harwell-Ramsey stuff, see the News Sentinel HERE, and the City Paper’ HERE.

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