Bill Would End Practice Of Obscuring Political Contributions Through "Conduits"


In recent election cycles a development in the method of political contributions has confounded those of us who transparency. It’s the use of “conduits” to funnel money to candidates.

Democrats make the biggest use of conduits here in North Dakota. Their candidates, and even their political party, push supporters to contribute to a group called ActBlue. This group is supposedly separate from any candidate’s committee or political party, as evidenced by the disclaimers they slapp all over their websites and emails, though that’s a little hard to believe when the candidates and political parties are officially pushing their supporters to donate to ActBlue.

Regardless, ActBlue takes the contributions they receive and sends them back to the candidates/political parties. Thus, ActBlue serves as a sort of processor of and clearing house for political contributions. Which is all well and good, but it makes political contributions far less transparent.

Contributions to ActBlue are disclosed, and ActBlue’s contributions to candidates and committees are disclosed, but it’s impossible to draw a line between who ultimately gave what to which candidate with ActBlue acting as a buffer.

I was critical of this back during the 2014 election cycle. Which brings us to SB2299 which, to the credit of Democrats, is being sponsored by first-term Senator Erin Oban (D-Bismarck) who also, as it happens, is the wife of Democrat Party executive director Chad Oban.

The bill would add this definition to the law:



It then requires that “conduits” send candidates and committees a report listing contributors:


Finally, it requires political candidates to breakdown the sources of contributions received through a conduit:



As an advocate of transparency, I must say that this is sound public policy that will restore insight into campaign finance lost through the use of conduits like ActBlue. I’m honestly surprised to see the legislation originate from such a hyper-partisan source, though the bill has strong Republican sponsorship as well. No doubt because it’s seen as good policy.

But seriously. Kudos to Senator Oban. This is not just good policy, but policy that may cause some headaches for her fellow Democrats.

The legislation got a hearing this morning before the Senate¬†Government and Veterans Affairs Committee. Let’s hope the majority Republicans in the legislature show appreciation for sound policy, even originating as it does from an arch ideologue like Oban.