Limits on candidates’ use of campaign funds inched one step closer to reality on Tuesday.
The House approved Senate Bill 2689, which prohibits using campaign funds for “residential or household items,” as well as mortgage, rent or utility payments, unless used for “bona fide campaign activities” or housing during the legislative session.
In addition, it would bar spending campaign donations on funeral-related expenses for candidates, clothing (except for campaign-related purchases), automobiles (except campaign-related rentals) and tuition. Also prohibited are payments to family members unless the relatives are providing bona fide services to the campaign at market value.
The House passed its own version of campaign-finance reform in early January. The Senate replaced the House bill with its own, which raised some eyebrows among House members.
Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, asked the lawmaker handling the bill if the Senate’s version was “watered down” from the House’s bill. That lawmaker, Rep. Jason White, R-West, called it a “blended version.”
“Would you say the House passed a stronger version?,” Miles asked.
“I would say so,” White replied.
White said the House did make some tweaks to the Senate bill, including that candidates could pay funeral expenses of constituents and, although political donations cannot go towards tuition, the bill clarifies that campaign funds can be used for registration for educational conferences.
Additionally, a prohibition against raising money during the legislative session that the Senate included was removed, White said, because it could put lawmakers with statewide political aspirations at a disadvantage.
All donations made before Jan. 1, 2018, would be exempt from the new rules. The bill passed 102-12.