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Last-minute changes to Kentucky’s campaign finance law no way to wrap up session

April 15, 2010

Without some miracle work to pull off a budget deal, the 2010 session of the Kentucky General Assembly that ends in just under 11 hours is heading toward becoming a complete failure. The top job of passing a budget is left for some other day, and few pieces of substantial legislation have made it through the process.

And today lawmakers are finding ways to make a bad legislative session even worse. According to John Cheves with the Lexington Herald-Leader, lawmakers are pushing through changes to Kentucky’s campaign finance law without any hearings on the changes or opportunity for public input.

From Cheves

A closed-door committee of Senate and House members last night agreed to add language to House Bill 152 — a routine elections bill — that would increase from $1,000 to $2,400 the sum that candidates, political parties and political issues committees can accept from a donor per election, with the sum allowed to rise in future years along with inflation.

The new language also would let political parties take money from corporations, something that is now prohibited under state law, if they put the money in “building fund accounts” used to pay for their offices, furniture, utilities, media-production equipment and other infrastructure costs. This would allow the party to spend more promoting candidates.

Finally, the new language would allow state legislators to take campaign donations from lobbyists, something that is now prohibited, if they are seeking a statewide constitutional office, such as governor, attorney general, treasurer, agriculture commissioner or state auditor.

Allowing more money to be tossed at candidates from more sources is no way to fix what’s broken in Frankfort, and particularly not when such changes are pushed through in the last hours.

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