Two words express what’s missing from Rory Reid’s proposals for Ethics Reform.
It cost the winning candidate for Mayor of North Las Vegas half a million dollars in the last election. That’s half a million for a lousy seat on a backwater council. The major contributors may not have violated the letter of Nevada campaign finance laws, but they certainly violated the spirit. Major casinos and developers openly contributed tens of thousands more than the $10,000 limit.
The North Las Vegas election was not atypical. Candidates at all levels of Nevada government look the other way as large donors use dummy Limited Liability Corporations to get around the $10,000 limit. Indeed, I expect you will find the same on Reid’s reports due on January 15th.
The need for large campaign funds virtually guarantees that incumbents will hold on to their offices, since large corporate givers usually prefer maintaining the status quo. Gibbons, of course, is the rare exception where a politician is so ineffectual even the big donors run away.
So, what’s to do?
Minimally, campaign reporting should be modernized. The current Nevada Secretary of State promised searchable campaign finance reports, perhaps something like one sees on the Federal Elections Commission site. That promise wasn’t kept and the latest Legislature killed reforms requiring electronic filing of campaign reports by candidates.
Campaign reform advocates still give Nevada an “F” for it’s neolithic practices.
Furthermore, steps should be taken to disallow corporations from donating more than the maximum $10,000 through LLCs that contain corporate officers in common. In addition, corporations should be required to list all corporate officers in the state database.
Frankly, the $10,000 is too much. The maximum allowed should be much lower, forcing everyone to campaign on less money, thus giving less-juiced candidates a better chance.
For further ideas, Rory Reid should look over the list of reforms proposed by another gubernatorial candidate by the name of Dina Titus. Titus proposed 12 reforms. Her suggestion for dealing with the LLC “bundling” was the following.
Require candidates to detail in their campaign disclosure statements the identities of corporate officers, directors, and
principals with an ownership interest of 10% or more in any contributing corporate entity, including for-profit and non-profit corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships. These filings also would require that occupations and addresses of individual donors be disclosed, similar to Federal Election Commission requirements.
That wouldn’t get rid of the LLC shell game, but it would make it a lot more obvious when it happens.
One other thing. Reid wants a one year cooling off period in which state employees cannot work as lobbyists. However, shouldn’t that go the other way as well? Lobbyists shouldn’t be allowed to work as state employees without a year break from their lobbying. Or would that empty out all those state boards?