3 Reasons Why HB 153 is Bad for Delaware — and 2 Ways We Can Improve It

In a democracy, we need guardrails to prevent the abuse of power.

A bill recently passed in the Delaware House and put on the ready list for the Delaware Senate would allow political committees to use campaign funds to donate to any tax-exempt religious, charitable, educational, or scientific organization, or to volunteer fire companies. While this may seem like a positive piece of legislation on its face, Common Cause Delaware has some concerns about its potential for misuse. Here are 3 reasons why you should tell your lawmakers to vote “no” on HB 153:

  1. These donations could be used to buy the favor of specific groups. Candidates may attempt to use a donation to “buy” an endorsement, or boots on the ground. Campaign funds should not be allowed to be used to curry favor with a charitable organization. 
  2. Donors may not not agree with the use of their donated dollars. Delawareans who give political donations believe that money will be used for a political campaign. They may not appreciate that money being spent on funding religious group or another organization that they may or may not support.
  3. This bill is unnecessary. Delaware law already allows candidates to donate leftover funds to charitable organizations when closing out a campaign account. Allowing candidates to donate to such organizations during their campaigns opens the door to misuse and corruption.

If our lawmakers are seriously considering this bill, we ask that two specific amendments be made to act as guardrails and prevent the misuse of campaign funds. 

  1. Require that money can only be donated to 501c(3) organizations with no possibility of a pass-through to a 501c(4) group. 501C(3) organizations have transparency obligations and strict limits on lobbying that 501c(4) organizations do not. This will help prevent self-dealing.2.
  2. Require that the funds cannot be used in a way that would personally benefit the politician or their family. Campaign funds should not be used to personally enrich a candidate.

In a democracy, we need guardrails to prevent the abuse of power. That is why we have campaign finance laws. The friendly amendments we suggest would eliminate the appearance of impropriety and minimize the real possibility of such.