The NC Center for Voter Education provides an update on legislation designed to bring more transparency to practice of electioneering by 527 organization such as the Republican Legislative Majority, which is funded and controlled by Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope.
The North Carolina Senate voted 36-6 Friday to enact new regulations on the activities of political organizations known as 527 groups, as they aim to influence the outcome of the state's elections. House Bill 1847 was amended by the N.C. Senate to make several changes in the laws governing electioneering by 527 groups.
Most notably, the measure would require a 527 group makes a disbursement incurring an expense for producing and airing electioneering communications in excess of $10,000 to file disclosure statements within 24 hours. The disclosure would reveal such information as the amount of the group's expenses, the election they are influencing, and the names, addresses, and occupations of contributors giving more than $1,000 to the 527.
Current law allows 527s to hide contributors' occupations and to delay reporting expenses, unlike political action committees (PACs) and candidates that face much tougher disclosure laws. Named after the IRS code for their special tax status, 527 organizations have played an increasingly influential role in state and national elections, most recently taking part in the defeat of three Republican legislators in the May primary.
Supporters of the legislation say it is designed to create more public accountability for 527 groups that try to influence election outcomes, but don't follow the same rules governing candidates and PACs.
"North Carolina voters are very concerned about a double standard," said Chris Heagarty, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, referencing public opinion polling conducted after the May primary. "If a candidate has to put his or her name on every piece of campaign information, and if political action committees have to disclose their contributors, why should these special groups play by different rules when they have the same goal of influencing elections?"
House Bill 1847 returns to the state House of Representatives where legislators will decide whether to concur with the Senate's proposal, or to meet in conference to work out a different version. Another House Bill, 1851, proposes even tougher standards for 527s, treating any electioneering activities exactly the same as those of a candidate or PAC.
"While the Senate proposal is a step in the right direction," said Heagarty, "the bill pending in the House would go even further to help ensure the public accountability needed for fair elections, by treating all of these groups the same."
Given his propensity for gross manipulation of electioneering laws, it's hard to see that more requirements for reporting will make much of a dent in the Puppetmaster's ability to use corporate money to buy seats in the NC Legislature. I'd much rather see absolute limits on the size of contributions an individual or a corporation can make to influence elections. But of course that's WAY too much to ask in our pay-to-play system of government.