More Zombie Legislation: Secret Campaign Contributions are Back

The state legislature has brought back from the dead a bill that if passed will dismantle campaign finance reforms and, among other things, allow corporations to make secret cash campaign contributions in the critical 10 days before an election.

HB3281 was taken off notice in the House on 4/10 but is back and will be heard in House State & Local government committee this afternoon, 4/24. HB3281 summary states:

removes prohibition on insurance companies making campaign contributions; removes PAC aggregate limitation on candidates; deletes report requirement on certain large contributions made within 10 days of election. – Amends TCA Title 2, Chapter 10 and Title 56, Chapter 3.

HB3281 detail (pdf):

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 56, Chapter 3, is amended by deleting
part 6 in its entirety.

56-3-601. Use and acceptance of insurance funds for political purposes prohibited.
56-3-602. Penalty for use and acceptance of funds for political purposes.
56-3-603. Revocation of license for use and acceptance of funds for political purposes.
56-3-604. Persons liable to the company for use and acceptance of funds for political purposes.
56-3-605. Use and acceptance of funds for political purposes — No person is excused from testifying.

SECTION 2. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-10-302, is amended by deleting
subsection (c)

(c) With respect to contributions from multicandidate political campaign committees for each election:

(1) No candidate for an office elected by statewide election shall accept in the aggregate more than fifty percent (50%) of the candidate’s total contributions from multicandidate political campaign committees; and

(2) No candidate for any other state or local public office shall accept in the aggregate more than seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000) from multicandidate political campaign committees.

In determining the aggregate limits established by this subsection (c), contributions made to a candidate by a committee controlled by a political party on the national, state, or local level or by a caucus of such political party established by members of either house of the general assembly are not included.

SECTION 3. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-10-302(d)(2), is amended by deleting the language “(a), (b) or (c)” and substituting instead the language “(a) or (b)”.

(d)(1) Each contribution limit established in subsection (a), (b) or (c) shall be adjusted to reflect the percentage of change in the average consumer price index (all items-city average), as published by the United States department of labor, bureau of labor statistics, for the period of January 1, 1996, through December 31, 2010. Each such adjustment shall be rounded to the nearest multiple of one hundred dollars ($100). The registry of election finance shall publish each such adjusted amount on its web site.

(2) On January 1, 2013, and every two (2) years thereafter, each contribution limit established in subsection (a), (b) or (c), as adjusted pursuant to subdivision (d)(1), shall be further adjusted to reflect the percentage of change in the average consumer price index (all items-city average), as published by the United States department of labor, bureau of labor statistics, for the two-year period immediately preceding. Each such adjustment under this subdivision (d)(2) shall be rounded to the nearest multiple of one hundred dollars ($100). The registry of election finance shall publish each such adjusted amount on its web site.

SECTION 4. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 2-10-105, is amended by deleting subsection (h).

(h)  (1) During the period beginning at twelve o’clock (12:00) midnight of the tenth day prior to a primary, general, runoff or special election or a referendum and extending through twelve o’clock (12:00) midnight of such election or referendum day, each candidate or political campaign committee shall, by telegram, facsimile machine, hand delivery or overnight mail delivery, file a report with the registry of election finance or the county election commission, whichever is required by subsections (a) and (b), of:

(A) The full name and address of each person from whom the candidate or committee has received and accepted a contribution, loan or transfer of funds during such period and the date of the receipt of each contribution in excess of the following amounts: a committee participating in the election of a candidate for any state public office, five thousand dollars ($5,000); or, a committee participating in the election of a candidate for any local public office, two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500). If the committee is participating in the election of candidates for offices with different reporting amounts, the amount shall be the lowest for any candidate in whose election the committee is participating or in which any committee is participating to which it makes or from which it receives a transfer of funds; and

(B) Such report shall include the amount and date of each such contribution or loan reported, and a brief description and valuation of each in-kind contribution. If a loan is reported, the report shall contain the name and address of the lender, of the recipient of the proceeds of the loan, and of any person who makes any type of security agreement binding such person or such person’s property, directly or indirectly, for the repayment of all or any part of the loan.

This bill is about more secrecy and more prioritization of the corporate campaign contributing 1% against the 99%. Doesn’t look like “Is it good for the people of the state?” to us. It is, in fact, extraordinarily self-serving legislation.

HB 3281 / SB 3645
SPONSORS: Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin); Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson).

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