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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published March 15 2013

Bill seeks transparency in campaign contributions

BISMARCK – Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Friday that a Senate proposal has been turned into a comprehensive bill to tackle campaign finances and address a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on political contributions.

Senate Bill 2299, sponsored on behalf of the secretary’s office by Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, seeks to expand campaign contribution reporting requirements and provide the secretary’s office with more information.

“Hopefully, when we’re all through with it, it increases transparency as far as what’s available to the public,” Jaeger told the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee.

The bill addresses the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a law cannot stop corporations and unions from making independent expenditures, which the bill clarifies as a contribution made to promote a candidate, or passage or defeat of a measure. The contribution would be given without the consent of the candidate or campaign.

The bill does retain current law that prohibits corporations from providing directly to candidates and parties. They can still contribute to a political action committee, or PAC.

PACs are committees formed by business, labor, or other special-interest groups to raise money and make contributions to a campaign.

The bill would require corporations and groups to register with the secretary’s office if they are going to provide independent expenditures.

“Nothing in Citizens United that said this

couldn’t be part of the law,” Jaeger said.

The bill’s provision to remove the $25 cost for a political committee to register with the state and the penalty for a committee’s failure to register should also be an incentive for campaigns to register earlier, Jaeger said, so the secretary’s office has contact information.

Company contributions

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota asked its affiliate companies last year if they wanted to contribute to a companywide political action committee to give to state legislative races.

They didn’t realize until after collecting contributions that soliciting the companies was against state law, and now they are looking to change the law.

Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, was asked to introduce SB 2255 on behalf of the insurance company. The bill would allow a corporation to accept contributions from employees and subsidiaries to give to a campaign.

The bill defines an affiliate as an organization that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with another organization.

The bill was sent to the House with a 46-1 Senate vote.

The bill was pushed out of the House Government Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday with a unanimous do pass recommendation.

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