SENATE SENDS CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW TO GOVERNOR
JACKSON – The Mississippi Senate today sent a plan to reform the state’s campaign finance laws to Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk for review.
Senate Bill 2689, by Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, brings more transparency to political expenses and places restrictions on spending to campaign-related needs. The bill includes a prohibition on personal expenses, payments to relatives and loans to candidates.
“This common sense reform requires full disclosure of activity and clarifies that spending on personal items is not allowable,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “Supporters of political candidates expect their resources to be spent on political activity, and voters deserve to know that is actually happening.”
The bill requires candidates to disclose credit card expenditures. It also states that once a campaign account has been closed, the candidate can return the funds to donors, donate the funds to another political cause or charity, or send to state coffers. The Ethics Commission will oversee enforcement.
Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn issued this statement as well.
Speaker Philip Gunn Congratulates Senate on Passage of Campaign Finance Bill
Tighter Guidelines, Reporting of Campaign Finance Money by Elected Officials and Candidates
Jackson, MS—Today, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn congratulated the Senate on passing the Campaign Finance Bill that passed the House earlier this month by a bipartisan vote of 102-12.
Senate Bill 2689 outlines definitions and usage guidelines for campaign contributions by any elected official or candidate. Speaker Gunn authored a similar bill earlier in the Session.
“I am grateful that we have come to an agreement on the Campaign Finance Bill,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. “We have worked hard to make this legislation as tight and as clear as possible. The entire Legislature should be commended on doing the right thing by passing this measure.
“We are expected, by those who elect us, to uphold certain expectations of integrity,” he continued. “This legislation effectively outlines the proper procedures for all elected officials and candidates in the handling and reporting of campaign contributions.”
Personal use is defined as any use, other than expenditures related to gaining, holding, or performing functions of public office, for which the candidate or public official would have to report as gross income to the IRS. Enactment of this legislation would prohibit using the funds for: 1) Residential or household items, supplies or expenditures including mortgage, rent, or utility payments for any residential property of a candidate, officeholder or family member; 2) Similar payments for nonresidential property used for campaign purposes if owned by a candidate, officeholder, or family member; 3) funeral expenses for themselves and family members; 4) clothing; 5) automobiles; 6) tuition payments other than those associated with training of staff or themselves; 7) country club fees, dues, gratuities; 8) salary payments to family members; 9) admission to entertainment events; 10) non-documented loans; 11) travel expenses; 12) payment of fines, fees or penalties issued under MS law.
Conclusion of Service/Campaign
Once an official files a termination report, any unused campaign contributions will be: 1) maintained in campaign account; 2) donated to political organization, PAC, or another candidate; 3) transferred to a new PAC or ballot question advocate; 4) donated to 501(c)(3) organization; 5) donated to the State of Mississippi; 6) returned to donor(s), not including the candidate.
Contributions accruing to a candidate’s campaign account before January 1, 2018, shall be exempt from the new provisions.
Credit card payments must be itemized for expenditures greater than $200.
Enforcement of this legislation will be overseen by the Mississippi Ethics Commission (MSEC). Those found to be in violation of the personal use section of this legislation will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 and a state assessment equal to the misappropriated funds. A penalty up to $5,000 may be imposed by the MSEC on any political committee that fails to file information on contributions, expenditures, officers and other information required. The Secretary of State shall compile and provide a list of candidates and political committees that fail to comply with the disclosure requirements of this legislation to the MSEC who shall levy a $50 fine per day (max of 10 days) until the party complies. The MSEC is authorized to issue anonymous advisory opinions to candidates and officeholders regarding the requirements of this legislation.
This bill would go into effect January 1, 2018.