By Representative Dennis Keene—All fifty states regulate the way money is raised and spent in campaigns, and in Kentucky the Registry of Election Finance is the agency charged with enforcing our state’s regulations and statutes. Running for office is expensive; it can cost upward of $50,000 to run a competitive House race in today’s political climate. The influx of outside and “dark” money in campaigns reinforces the need for more disclosure and transparency.
In recent years, budget cuts have impacted the Registry’s ability to enforce finance laws which has lead to some candidates slacking off on timely reporting and full disclosure of expenditures. Most candidates go to great lengths to document all contributions, gathering employer and occupation information, and detailing each and every campaign expenditure on reports that are due at regular intervals throughout the election cycles. In addition, statewide candidates such as senators and representatives must file their reports with the Registry in Frankfort, and also file copies with the local county clerks. This practice allows the public to access those reports in a timely manner without making a trip to Frankfort.
Sometimes candidates neglect to file their report copies with the county clerks without consequence. The lack of enforcement of these unfiled reports has become more frequent, denying the public the access to campaign records. Reports are sometimes submitted late without complete or inaccurate information with respect to contributions.
In March, the U.S. District Court ruled that the Registry could no longer prohibit corporate contributions that results in unequal treatment of corporations, unions and LLCs. This does not change the prohibition of corporate contributions to individual candidates, but it does open the door for corporation money to flow into political action committees, allowing them to now sponsor their own committees.
Our election finance laws exist to provide full transparency to the public so they know where and from whom candidates are raising money and how they are spending those funds. We need more sunlight and transparency in these matters, not less. Laws and statues exist to protect the public and should be enforced equally, holding candidates accountable to the citizens they hope to serve.
Representative Dennis Keene has served the citizens of the 67th District since 2005 and is the chairman of the House Licensing and Occupations Committee, Vice Chairman of Economic Development, Vice Chairman on the Budget Subcommittee on Transportation and a member of the Banking & Insurance Committee. Keene is a small business owner and an economic development advisor for EGC Construction. For more information, visit: www.DennisKeene.com.