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SPOTLIGHT
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Counting on contributions

Published on -2/25/2014, 10:05 AM

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Let's figure you probably don't want to see a lobbyist, or maybe a corporate chief, handing a legislator a check for his or her campaign fund before the legislator goes into the House or Senate to vote on a bill.

Now, that would be a little unseemly, wouldn't it?

Well, it if was that simple, we'd be done. That's illegal.

Lobbyists and corporations and unions -- really anyone except individuals -- can't contribute to anyone's legislative campaign funds after Jan. 1 of each year and before the formal adjournment of the Legislature for the year, called sine die, usually in late May or early June.

Now, that sounds fair.

But Democratic leadership in the House and Senate have special campaign committees that can accept money during the legislative session that later will be used for financing their members' campaigns.

Republicans in the Senate used to have one of those during-the-session fundraising vehicles but it now is out of play (long story), and House Republicans more than a decade ago never started that special fund when they had the chance.

So, Republicans want to even the score. If Democrats can raise campaign money during the session from lobbyists and corporations and unions and such, Republicans want to, too.

There are two ways to do this. Republicans have the votes to just shut down the Democrats' ability to raise money through their special leadership funds so nobody could raise campaign money from anyone but pedestrians during the session. It's not the fault of Democrats that Republicans don't have special leadership funds, but that's not much of a consideration for Republicans.

The way Republicans want to level the fundraising ground is to allow political parties to designate one leadership committee for each party in each house that is allowed to accept campaign contributions during the legislative session.

That evens things up. That way, House and Senate Republicans have the ability to raise money Democrats can now.

It might be a little unseemly, but the ground will be level if Senate Republicans who are pushing -- and have the votes to pass -- the bill House Republicans, that again, they have the votes to pass, would like, too.

Now, you've probably guessed that neither Republicans nor Democrats are bashful about pushing big-money contributors to cough up campaign funds before that Jan. 1-through-adjournment drought. They might even remind those donors they supported issues important to those business checkbook owners.

But during-the-session, solicitation of contributions would be done by a leadership committee and not by individual lawmakers.

Good bill? Bad bill?

Talk among yourselves.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher

of Hawver's Capitol Report.

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