The Year Of Campaign Finance Reform

January 11, 2013

11th DistrictThe 2012 presidential election is history, and yet the alarming nature of how the race was funded remains a mystery. More than $6 billion was spent during the last election cycle — more than $2 billion by the presidential candidates and their Super PACs alone — much of which was undisclosed and devoted to attack ads that made us all dive for the remote. For example, in the waning days of the campaign, each Ohioan was forced to watch more than 300 political ads each day.

It is increasingly clear that special interests and the rich can purchase a louder voice in our national discourse than is afforded to either you or me, subverting an election process that should be based on transparency, equality and fairness.

In 2011, I sponsored legislation that convened a commission of legislators, finance professionals, judges and learned appointees to study campaign finance law and recommend strategies for limiting the corrupting influence of money in politics. The commission completed its two-year report shortly before Christmas. I commend the commission and its chair, Bruce Marcus, Esq., on its thoughtful discourse, and now I will work tirelessly to put its legislative recommendations into action.

The goal of the commission and my proposed campaign finance ref-orms is not to restrict political speech. In fact, I believe that encouraging a lively debate informed by a diverse variety of voices and opinions is the most important part of the political process. Rather, implementing the commission’s recommendations will bring sunshine to the political process and move campaign finance into a culture of disclosure and transparency.

Recommendations that are part of my legislation include closing the LLC loophole so that individuals cannot contribute beyond the stated limits; increasing the aggregate limit that individuals can contribute directly to discourage independent expenditures; and modernizing the dysfunctional slate transfer rules. Currently, loopholes exist to skirt contribution limits, disclosure of large contributions is limited at best, and the reporting system is archaic, cumbersome and wasteful. This legislation will address other important reforms as well.

While only a constitutional amendment or the Supreme Court can reverse the misguided Citizens United decision, Maryland has the ability to be a leader in local campaign finance reform. Most importantly, we can greatly increase transparency in political contributions by requiring disclosure of the source of all major campaign donations. You have the right to know who’s trying to influence your vote and to hold accountable any individual or corporation for the political speech they advance.

Conducting free and fair elections is the foundation on which our democracy exists, and voting is the most fundamental tool we have to hold our leaders accountable for the decisions they make. The vital reforms I am proposing ensure both a wide-ranging political debate and increased trans- parency and accountability among political contributors. I call on my colleagues in the legislature to help make Maryland a leader in campaign finance reform and support these common-sense reforms now.

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