North Dakota Republicans Introduce Their Own Campaign Transparency Legislation

Earlier this week Democrats announced a group of bills aimed at making politics in North Dakota more transparent. And most of the proposals, outside of yet another push for an ethics commission, are good ideas.

Former state Rep. Ed Gruchalla showed us yesterday just how Democrats intend to use an ethics commission, proving just how terrible an idea it is. I’d rather have voters hold politicians accountable, not other politicians.

Anyway, Republicans have now announced their own transparency bill, and again the ideas are pretty good.  You can read the full legislation, but here are the bullet points (pulled from a press release Senator Jon Casper of Fargo, the prime sponsor, sent me):

  • Applies requirements equally to all statewide and legislative political candidates;
  • Expands existing reporting requirements to include a candidate’s personal campaign contributions and investments;
  • Includes expenditure reporting to be broken out into specific categories, and
  • Explicitly prohibits personal use of campaign contributions

“Republicans have always believed in transparent government,” Sen. Casper is quoted as saying in his press release. “We have the best open records laws in the nation and we give our citizens full access to their government. This bill follows in that tradition and gives voters the information they need to make good decisions about their elected officials.”

The bill will likely pass given that the House and Senate leadership is co-sponsoring. In addition to Casper, the bill is backed by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, N.D. House Majority Leader Al Carlson, Sen. Jessica Unruh (Dist. 33 – Beulah), Rep. Jim Kasper (Dist. 46 – Fargo) and Rep. Scott Louser (Dist. 5 – Minot)

This is all well and good as far as it goes, but really both Republicans and Democrats need to go further for transparency.

Campaign finance reporting needs to happen much more often. There is no good reason why reporting couldn’t happen daily, but I’d settle for weekly or even bi-weekly reports. We also need to drop the threshold on campaign reporting. Why should contributions under $200 be exempt from disclosure?

Every penny collected and spent by political campaigns should be disclosed.

It’s hard to fault politicians for at least moving in the right direction, but even if this passes there will be more which can be done.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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