Campaign Finance Reform

Senate Bill 11: Co-sponsors: Senators Brewster, Haywood, Teplitz, Fontana, Schwank, Farnese, Hughes, Kitchen, Yudichak, Smith, Vance, Boscola, Blake, Wozniak, Leach, Wiley, and Tartaglione.

CampaignFinanceThis much-needed reform measure is aimed to protect the integrity of our state government and maintain the balance of influence in the election of public officials by establishing campaign contribution limits in Pennsylvania. Ours is one of only a few states that currently have no protections in place. This legislation is intended to bring standards to Pennsylvania’s electoral process that are common in state and federal elections.

The bill amends the Election Code to limit the expenditures of a candidate, political committee, political action committee, political party committee or other person, for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election, to expenditures directly and exclusively incurred for the campaign in which the candidate is running in the contemporaneous election cycle and not for any personal purpose. The legislation also addresses acceptance of campaign contributions from out-of-state committees.

Second, the bill will address independent expenditures by incorporated entities. The Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 has made independent expenditures a leading campaign finance issue in many states. The so-called “uncoordinated” and “independent” political expenditures now permitted by incorporated entities under this decision should be treated in a similar manner as PAC expenditures for reporting purposes. Although corporate political contributions to candidates remain illegal, corporate expenditures can now be made to influence the outcome of election. These expenditures need to be disclosed and made public in an effort to expose their attempts to manipulate elections and public policy. While the Citizens United decision does permit incorporated entities to make independent uncoordinated expenditures on behalf of candidates, it also clearly permits governments to require disclosure of such expenditures. This legislation would provide for such disclosure. Connecticut and Maryland both have recently enacted legislation regarding this issue.

The third area of campaign finance reform this legislation will address is that of corporate shareholder approval of political activity. Although corporations cannot vote, corporations make significant political contributions and expenditures that directly or indirectly influence the election of candidates and support or oppose political causes at the federal, state and local levels. Decisions to use corporate treasury funds for political contributions and expenditures are currently made by corporate boards and executives, often without the knowledge or consent of shareholders. This legislation will require approval by the majority of shareholders when corporations make political contributions that exceed $10,000. Also included would be a provision requiring corporations to notify shareholders of any political/campaign activity.