Joint Subcommittee on
Campaign Finance Reform
30, 2001, Norfolk
The joint subcommittee discussed
and agreed to a proposal that the chairman write to state law schools
to solicit a review of the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act (CFDA) as a
student project. The Secretary of the State Board of Elections explained
that the act has proven confusing, needs clarification, and could be improved.
The board's staff receives questions on the interpretation of the act
that are difficult or impossible to answer because of ambiguities and
inconsistencies in the act. The proposal contemplates a fresh review for
clarity rather than an examination of potential campaign finance reforms.
State Board and subcommittee staff would assist in the project. Members
also noted the need for a more detailed instruction book for persons required
to file reports under the act.
The State Board of Elections
presented a revised list of requested revisions and clarifications in
the CFDA for the subcommittee's consideration.
The subcommittee reviewed a
number of items brought forward at its June 27 meeting:
- Mandatory electronic
filing for General Assembly candidates.
The State Board reported that 100-plus General Assembly candidates are
filing electronically for the November 2001 election. The board now
has three full-time employees for campaign finance work. It has a contract
for $22,000 for the rest of the year to meet its obligation, effective
January 1, 2001, to key in data filed in paper format. Its staff cannot
keep up with the work involved in filing, reviewing, and copying disclosure
forms and needs an additional full-time employee in this area. It has
not had time to track the staff time required for the keying in and
copying of paper-copy General Assembly disclosure forms. The subcommittee
noted that electronic filing produces cost savings and that the delay
in entering data from paper disclosure forms may disadvantage candidates
who file electronically. It also discussed the suggestion that the filing
forms could be simplified. Suit has been filed by an independent statewide
office candidate challenging the requirement that disclosure forms in
statewide elections be filed electronically.
- Applicability of CFDA
to towns. Prior
to the 2000 Census, only town elections in Blacksburg were subject to
the act. Under the 2000 Census, Blacksburg and Leesburg fall within
the 25,000 and more population class. The subcommittee asked for a breakdown
showing all towns of 1,000 or more population under the 2000 Census.
- Filings by PACs under
CFDA. The subcommittee
requested a draft to simplify the PAC filing schedule and for information
on active versus inactive PACs to evaluate possible electronic filing
requirements with a certain threshold of activity.
- Issue advocacy and the
definition of "political committee."
The subcommittee requested a draft to clarify that the CFDA does not
apply to pure issue advocacy groups.
Representatives of the American
Association of University Women and League of Women Voters spoke in support
of campaign contribution limits, random audits of a percentage of candidate
campaign reports, prompt reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures,
and an election day holiday.
The Honorable S. Chris Jones,
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