HJR 213/SJR 80
Joint Subcommittee to Study Campaign Finance Reform
September 19, 2000, Richmond
At its organizational meeting, the subcommittee received and discussed reports from the State Board of Elections (SBE) and staff on several topics. The discussion developed a variety of issues and questions reviewed below.
The subcommittee agreed to bring together a roundtable of knowledgeable and interested parties for its second meeting to pinpoint problems that should and can be addressed by reform. For example, do unlimited contributions cause corruption or the perception of corruption and what are the positive and negative consequences of limits?
Electronic Filing of Disclosure Reports; Audits
All statewide candidates are required to file campaign finance disclosure reports by computer or electronically. General Assembly candidates may file their reports electronically. If they file electronically, they are not required to file locally. Beginning January 1, 2001, the SBE will enter all General Assembly candidate reports into a database accessible on the Internet.
Presently 41, or 29 percent, of General Assembly members file their contribution and expenditure reports electronically; 41, or 29 percent, file hand-written reports; 23, or 17 percent, file typed reports; 21, or 15 percent, file computer generated paper reports; and 13, or 9 percent, file paper reports produced on VAFiling Software. The SBE now reviews reports for timeliness and completeness but not for accuracy or content.
Questions: Should electronic filings be made mandatory for all candidates? Certain candidates? Are the current incentives for electronic filings sufficient? What additional incentives would encourage greater use of electronic filings? Are additional review and audit procedures necessary? How should audits be defined, what are the costs, and are random audits feasible?
Compliance and Enforcement
SBE reported that fines were assessed against candidate/political committees but in many instances not collected in the past four years (see Table 1).
Questions: Is the present $50/$300 penalty structure working? Are willful violations being prosecuted? Do Commonwealth's attorneys have time and resources to prosecute willful violations?
Contribution and Expenditure Limits; Public Financing
Campaign spending has increased (see Table 2). Thirty-six states limit the amount that an individual can contribute to a candidate. Virginia is one of 14 states that do not limit individual contributions to candidates (Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Utah are the others). Eight of these states either prohibit or limit contributions by corporations, unions, or committees or one or more of these categories.
Source: Campaign financial disclosure forms filed with the Virginia State Board of Elections and compiled by Virginia FREE.
Staff provided information on the public funding statutes of other states, and the subcommittee noted the need to examine the issues of campaign spending limits and possible public funding options.
Questions: Do unlimited contributions lead to corruption or the perception of corruption? Do contribution limits work? Is too much being spent on campaigns? What are the benefits and drawbacks of public funding programs?