On Friday, the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee advanced two bills related to campaign finance, saying the changes would add more transparency to the election process if passed.
The first bill is sponsored by Senator Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. Senate Bill 1337 lowers the threshold for reporting campaign contributions or expenses from $1,000 to $500 on a cumulative basis. According to the existing Idaho Code, candidates running for office in Idaho must submit monthly reports of campaign contributions and expenses in the election year. In off-peak years, only contributions of $1,000 or more must be reported within 48 hours of receiving the donation.
If the bill is signed into law, candidates will be required to file monthly reports as soon as they accumulate or spend $500 or more, even in a lean year.
“Elections have become year-round,” Lodge told the committee on Friday. “You’ll notice that before a campaign ends, people advertise positions even four years into the future.”
With only 48-hour reports to rely on in off-years, Lodge said, the only option is to manually add up the reports to find out how much a candidate raises and spends in a non-election year.
“That’s not what campaign contribution transparency is about,” she said.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane testified in support of the bill, as did Elinor Chehey, a representative for the League of Women Voters of Idaho.
The committee did not debate the bill and passed it in the Senate with a recommendation for concurrence. If passed by the House and signed into law, it will take effect July 1.
Ada County Clerk even says he’s having trouble contacting some election candidates
The second bill was introduced by Ken Burgess, a lobbyist appearing on behalf of the Idaho Press Club. Senate Bill 1338 would require nomination papers and nomination petitions for office in Idaho to include campaign contact information, including phone numbers and email addresses, and the information would be publicly available upon request.
McGrane also came out in favor of the bill, saying that even as county clerk he had trouble finding contact information for candidates.
“We had a disputed recount at Meridian in November, and one of the candidates who was involved in it, I had to scour the internet, including going to LinkedIn and trying to connect with the person to get a message across to them. because I couldn’t find contact information by any means we have to let them know they would be involved in a recount,” McGrane said.
Chehey also backed the idea, saying the League of Women Voters of Idaho puts together a voter’s guide during election years with questionnaires for candidates. The questions are sent by email, but the organization sometimes has difficulty reaching the candidates.
“Some candidates don’t have a website or they’re up very late in the season, so they may be left out,” Chehey said.
The committee passed the bill in the Senate without discussion. If passed by the House and signed into law, the bill contains an emergency clause that would make it effective immediately.