/Campaign finance reform goes down in the House

Campaign finance reform goes down in the House

After lengthy debate and hard questioning by committee chairmen, House members voted to return the conference report on House Bill797 to the conference committee. This will make it almost impossible to bring back the conference report before the session closes, possibly on Thursday. After media reports about lawmakers using campaign funds for their personal purposes, campaign finance reform gained popularity. Proponents of reform believe that laws regarding campaign fund use must be clarified. The bill would have made it clear that political donations could only be used for activities related to election campaigns or the holding of elected office. The proposal would prohibit funds from being used to pay rent or mortgages unless they are used for campaign purposes. The money could not be used to purchase clothing or vehicles, except for campaign cars and gear like T-shirts. Rep. Cory Wilson (R-Madison) stated that the bill contained important reforms that improved transparency in campaign finance. The changes would have been effective January 1, 2017. Wilson’s Republican counterparts, including House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Jeff Smith from Columbus, pressed Wilson about how officials would be punished for violating new rules. Smith said that Smith suggested that the House Ethics Committee hold fellow members accountable and not have oversight by the Mississippi Secretary-of-State and Attorney General. Any willful violation of law would be subject to a $1,000 fine. Rep. Bill Denny (R-Jackson) asked his colleagues to not recommit it to conference committee. He stated, “I don’t know how we can protect ourselves.”