by Max Brantley
Max erupting from a volcanic atoll on the South Island of New Zealand:
E-mail arrives from Republican Sen. David Sanders of Little Rock, touting a couple of pieces of so-called ethics legislation. One bill tightens up a law that I believe already requires itemized reporting on expenditures by ballot issue committees, not just the payments to turn-key consulting firms, as has been the recent practice favored by chamber of commerce front groups. Buit if a law is required for transparency, well, thanks to Sens. Sanders and Jane English and others for following through.
No thanks for Sanders' other legislation, which specifies that use of campaign money to attend a national political convention is not a personal use of campaign money. Only a Republican would term an expanasion of how campaign money may be used for personal entertainment, travel, drinks and networking with pals as "ethics reform."
This is just wrong. It's incumbent-friendly legislation and a way for candidates to shake a tin cup at the usual fat cats to get travel money that the law otherwise would prohibit a special interest from providing. If a candidate wants to attend a political convention, let the candidate pay his or her own way. Seems simple.
This legislation should be easily defeatable. It requires a super majority vote because it amends (and weakens) a voter initiated ethics law. Democrats are in the minority, but their numbers are sufficient to beat this bad bill. Unless they want to get in on the boodling, too, which many no doubt do.
Sanders would be more convincing as an ethics reformer if the Senate had first expeditiously moved on Sen. Bruce Maloch's bill to end fake fund-raising luncheons at which incumbent, generally unopposed legislators give campaign surplus to other pals in the legislature in expectation of future thank-yous. Republicans made an art form of this in 2012, though Democrats, too, have engaged in the practice. Fixing this practice would be true ethics reform. Passing a law expanding private capitalization on campaign contributions is not.
ALSO: How about some Republicans get behind another good idea — the end of multiple political contributions from essentially the same person. See how Jim Lindsey gives to his favored candidates in the name of many different LLCs he controls. Senator Sanders? Senator Key? Representative Carter? Anybody?