So where is campaign finance reform?
The clock is ticking on Delaware’s next campaign finance scandal.
It inevitably will run out at some point. Where or when is anyone’s guess. However, it will happen at some point and for two reasons.
The first is simple human nature. Temptation and ambition are elixirs too powerful for some.
The second reason is the current General Assembly’s seeming reluctance to pass some relatively mild laws that make Delaware’s campaign finance laws a tad more transparent. For example, one bill, House Bill 284, calls for political committees to report a donor’s employers and occupation as well as a name and address.
If that sounds odd, consider this. The last Delaware campaign finance scandal could have been prevented if those two little pieces of information were attached. An employer went over the limit in donations and almost got away with it by having his employees contribute the legal limit. The employer then reimbursed the employees for those amounts. That happens to be illegal and, except for reporting by this newspaper, he probably would have gotten away with it. The employer went to jail, but not before his trial and conviction embarrassed a lot of Delaware politicians individually and all of them collectively.
Rep. Deborah Hudson’s would change that. As the bill’s summary notes, “This is already a requirement in federal campaign finance law.” Why not Delaware?
That reform and others were recommended by former Delaware Supreme Court Chief E. Norman Veasey in his report on Delaware’s “play-to-pay” political culture.
In that report, the chief justice and his investigative team noted the scandal mentioned above including Christopher Tigani and his company, NKS Distributors, could have been spotted early. Many of the later-questioned contributions came from “arguably ‘persons of limited means’ whose ability to make large political contributions might have been questioned if employer and occupation information had been reported.”
So, again, why not Delaware? We hope it is not because Rep. Hudson is a Republican and the House and Senate leadership teams are Democrats. However, the bill has languished in committee for months.
The other bills could help keep our political system a little more honest. However, they also have almost disappeared. For example, one, sponsored by Democrat Rep. Dennis E. Williams would establish a mid-year reporting date for campaign committees. Now the campaigns must report at the end of the year. Rep. Williams would add a June 30 reporting date. The benefit would be that the public could see how the money is trending before the election.
A variety of other reform bills, including those praised by the House and Senate leaders and sponsored by Democrats, have stalled.
Passage of these bills will not stop the scandal clock, but it has a good chance of slowing it down.
(Orginally posted on Delaware Online)