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Campaign reform bill, minus key section, wins approval from assembly committee


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: The third of three campaign finance reform bills being pushed by Secretary of State Ross Miller this session passed out of an Assembly committee today, but an important provision regulating political action committees was removed.

Lawmakers say the deletion of a key provision of Assembly Bill 81 is only temporary.

The section, which is aimed at restricting the ability of a candidate to create multiple PACs to fund a campaign and circumvent contribution limits – as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid – will be restored when suitable language is finalized.

Assembly Bill 81 had to pass out of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee by Friday or it would not be eligible for further consideration this legislative session.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the provision is important and he is committed to continue working on the language in Section 59.5 (c) that says “affiliated” political action committees would be collectively restricted on the amounts they could contribute to a campaign.

Another section of the bill sought by Miller, which would allow for bigger financial penalties if a third-party group spent money in a Nevada campaign without filing the required disclosure information, was approved by the committee.

The proposed language in Section 49.5 is intended to give the Secretary of State the ability to seek larger fines from third party groups that fail to follow the reporting requirements in Nevada law, Miller said. The proposal would allow each activity, such as an ad buy, to count as a separate violation that could bring a civil penalty. The clarification would help ensure compliance with the reporting requirements.

“It’s always been our position that every TV buy was an actionable violation of the statute,” Miller said. “We recognize that it could certainly be argued that, in the aggregate, all of those violations only constituted one violation.

“Obviously it is a poor policy because it would allow a significant out-of-state buy and somebody to say, ‘here is your $5,000 fine and that’s an acceptable cost of doing business for us,’ ” he said.

Two other campaign finance reform bills, Assembly Bills 82 and 452, have already been passed out of the committee. AB452 would require candidates to file their campaign contribution and expense reports online and allow the public to search the reports for donor information.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his failed race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal.

The use of the PACs by Reid was first reported by political analyst and columnist Jon Ralston.

The language in AB81 is meant to clarify that such PACs are collectively subject to campaign contribution limits.

But some lawmakers have expressed concern that the language in the bill could be improperly applied to their caucus and leadership PACs as well.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, vice chairwoman of the panel, said an effort to clarify the intent has not yet been successful.

“We were concerned that it was perhaps too broad and that there could be some instances where there (are) caucuses or related PACs in the future that are affiliated and would inadvertently be caught up in this provision,” she said.

But new language developed to address the concern, “actually made it worse,” Flores said.

Miller said the concerns of legislative leaders on the applicability of the section are legitimate.

“So we’re committed to working with them on language that would be acceptable,” he said.

Panel Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said: “I think it is pretty clear on the record everybody is committed to making this happen, so I think if we struck it, it wouldn’t be like we’re actually getting rid of the language.”

Oceguera pledged to keep working on the issue.

“It’s my pledge Mr. Chairman to you to get this done,” he said. “We think it’s an important piece of legislation, an important part of this legislation, and if we have to do a floor amendment to make it right we will.”

Audio clips:

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores says concerns remain with the current language:

041411Flores 33 made it worse.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says lawmakers are committed to fixing the problem:

041411Oceguera :13 it right yet.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says the deletion is only temporary:

041411Segerblom :06 of the language.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the third-party language needs to be clarified:

041411Miller1 :13 constituted one violation.”

Miller says current law is not enough of a deterrent:

041411Miller2 :11 business for us.’ “

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