Harrisburg, Pa. – January 19, 2021 – Again this session, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa is seeking cosponsors for comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation.
“Pennsylvania is one of the most poorly regulated states as it relates to campaign finance laws,” said Senator Costa. “Now more than ever, we need to do more to restore faith in government and that can come from increased transparency and less money infecting our processes. I am hopeful that this year, the legislation will garner bipartisan support.”
Senator Costa will introduce a bill similar to what he has proposed in previous sessions to address comprehensive campaign finance reform, but with several additions based on feedback from constituents and recent media reports.
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. Connecticut and Maryland both have recently enacted legislation regarding this issue.
Senate Bill 11 will address corporate shareholder approval of political activity. The bill 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.
The bill amends the Election Code to limit the expenditures of a candidate, political committee, political action committee, political party committee or other person;.the proposed limits are as follows, and are within the middle of limits imposed by other states.
Lastly, media reports have shown examples of the use of credit cards and gift cards by campaign committees. This expenditure method is clearly used to obscure how political action committee money is being used from public view. In many cases, the expenses may be crossing the line into personal use, but because it is difficult or impossible to see what the expense are, there is no accountability. To that end, the new legislation will require credit card statements to be filed with campaign finance reports, ban the purchase of gift cards with PAC money, and define “personal purpose.”
“The people deserve to be fully informed about a candidate’s financial backers,” Costa said. “My bill would restore the people’s confidence that their elections are not bought and paid for by corporate entities, neither domestic nor foreign.”