Democratic legislators filed a batch of good government bills today and apparently more expected tomorrow and the days ahead.
Can Democrats encourage bipartisan ethics legislation? That is the question. At a minimum, the legislation offers a forum for Democrats to get some positive attention despite small numbers. Realistically, they can’t pass anything without some Republican support. Today:
* Rep. Greg Leding and Sen. Keith Ingram have introduced legislation, with 11 Democratic co-sponsors, to prevent members of the General Assembly from forming more than one political action committee. Multiple PACs, a trick particularly favored by some lobbyists, allow piling up contributions from the same sources more than once, in excess of the contribuition limits. Then each PAC, in theory, can contribute to the same candidate.
* Rep. Clarke Tucker of Little Rock introduced four measures. One would increase the penalty for personal use of campaign money from a misdemeanor to a felony, the level determined by how much money was wrongly used. Another would remove judicial immunity from judges who commit criminal acts by taking bribes. This would have allowed claims against, for example, Mike Maggio, convicted of taking a bribe to reduce a jury verdict in a nursing home case. Another would expand the violation of abuse of public trust — passed in the last session — to include acts by someone elected to, but not yet serving, in office. In other words, taking a payment for expected action in advance of taking office would be a crime, too.
Tucker’s most important legislation — and thus likely the most difficult to pass — is his bill to shine some light on dark money, the anonymously sourced money that has become so important in so many election races. His bill would require disclosure on all “electioneering communications,” which would include those ads that are harshly critical of a candidate without explicitly urging a vote. Disclosure of spending would be required by those spending more than $1,000. Contributors of more than $500 to such efforts would have to be disclosed. It also place restrictions on coordination of activities between independent expendtiure groups and candidates’ campaigns. This is a badly needed dose of sunlight, but given where the prevailing money has been spent in recent days, it will be hard to get Republicans on board I’d guess.