Follow the Money: Campaign Finance Measures on the 2016 Ballot

Voters in four states made decisions on five campaign finance measures on state ballots this year, which is more than any year since the Institute started comprehensively tracking ballot measures in 2004. These measures presented voters with a smorgasbord of options for reforming the political process. The breadth of the topics covered by these measures show that the citizenry is not short on ideas for mediating the role of money in politics.

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Fighting over secret money

The biggest problem with the campaign-finance system is also the hardest to correct: the escalating millions spent on politics behind a veil of secrecy. On its face, this should be an easy problem to fix. Why not simply require donor disclosure for all campaign activities?

The hard part is that many groups that claim to be engaging in advocacy or public education are actually making political expenditures. The courts have ruled that advocacy groups have a right to keep their donors private, lest the government tread on constitutionally protected free speech.

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38 states looking at ‘dark money’

A renewed effort to give Arkansas information about so-called dark-money groups would be part of a national movement to seek disclosure about those who attempt to influence the outcomes of elections, according to the backer of the proposal and others.

A recent poll of the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 38 states are considering new disclosure laws that would require groups such as the Judicial Crisis Network to share more information about their funding and involvement in state elections.

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New Mexico campaign finance open data bill advances

The public could have a much clearer picture of money in politics if a bill adding open data features to the state’s electronic campaign finance system is successful. The proposal was advanced Monday the Senate Rules Committee.

The bill (HB 105), would require candidates to go online to submit information about their fundraising and spending. It would also make it easier for the public to verify information in campaign finance reports by adding cross-referencing features to the state’s electronic campaign finance reporting system.

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Editorial: Disclosure on lump sum payments in Texas

Lump sum payments from campaign and political action committees to consultants are blocking the public view of Texas campaign spending.

At the moment, the public is being asked to trust that these dollars have valid final destinations. That’s because they are simply reported, sometimes in six-figure amounts, as “consulting” or “consulting fees,” according to a recent San Antonio Express-News article.

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