House rejects bill to require transparency in campaign finance reports | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 26, 2015

House rejects bill to require transparency in campaign finance reports

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 3:53 PM

NO TO TRANSPARENCY: Della Rosa tried, but too many of her fellow legislators want to keep their campaign records muddled and inaccessible. - ARKANSAS HOUSE
  • NO TO TRANSPARENCY: Della Rosa tried, but too many of her fellow legislators want to keep their campaign records muddled and inaccessible.

An ethics bill
by Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers) to require electronic filing of campaign finance reports failed on the House floor on Thursday, 48-33, with many members not voting. Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) said the bill required a two-thirds supermajority for passage.

Arkansas is one of the few states that still doesn't require electronic filing, which would make campaign finances much more open and transparent by allowing voters to track exactly what interests are funding whom in elections. I explained earlier today why it's so important.

Pretty much all of the opposition to the bill came in the form of jokes. Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (D-Warren) said he couldn't support electronic filing because there's "a huge paper industry" in his Southeast Arkansas district. Rep. Mickey Gates (R-Hot Springs) said that in rural Arkansas, "4G" means "Gee, I can't get this to download. Gee, I can't get this to upload."

Rep. Dave Wallace (R-Leachville) said "I may not be smart enough to be able to do this online." Very cute. Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier) said he was scared of the Ethics Commission coming after him if he had Internet problems. He described a frightening night in which he "hit the submit button 20 minutes after [the] midnight [filing deadline]. Guess what I got from the Ethics Commission next week — I got a warning for filing too late."

I'm not sure if that one was supposed to be a joke or not. 

Della Rosa tried her best to argue for common decency. "I think one of the hardest things to do in this building is to convince people to change their own behavior. ... We're making laws telling other people 'you should do this, you should do that,'" she said.

"I'm asking you to do [this] for a very good reason. We do not have campaign finance transparency in Arkansas today. We don't. ... 40 states in America require online filing. We are not in any way pioneering this. We are trailing behind."

She tried her best to sincerely address the concerns raised by the other members. Yes, your Internet connection can falter, she acknowledged. So can your fax machine, or the mail. "You have 15 days to file this. If you're waiting until midnight on the last day, you're taking that risk," she said.

As for Wallace's complaint, she said "I can't do anything about mental capacity. ... [but] I will personally be happy to help you." If any legislator felt befuddled by online forms, she said, "I will volunteer. I'll be happy to have you call me." She also noted that the online forms are substantially the same as the paper forms that members must already fill out.

Although most of the opposition came from Della Rosa's fellow Republicans, a number of Democrats besides Wardlaw also voted "No," including Rep. John Walker (Little Rock) and House minority leader Rep. Eddie Armstrong (North Little Rock). So did Rep. Nate Bell (R-Mena) and other libertarian-leaning Republicans who claim to fight for political transparency and accountability. Here are the votes.

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