Robyn Williams tells students finance laws should be changed to allow unlimited donations with instant reporting

09/29/2011 05:09 PM

What would campaign finance laws look like if candidates were allowed to raise an unlimited amount of money but had to report those donations within a 24-hour window?

Robyn Williams, the wife of Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams, told a group of Northern Kentucky University students on Thursday that she would be willing to find out.

So far this election cycle, David Williams has lagged behind Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in fundraising and in the polls. Robyn Williams said that’s because of Beshear’s willingness to “shake down state employees” or trade contributions for appointments.

Beshear has denied that his administration has sought to leverage donations from its employees.

Statewide candidates are limited to accepting $1,000 per donor in the primary election and $1,000 in the general election season. And political parties are limited to accepting $12,500. But Robyn Williams said those limits push people to create independent organizations that are secretive.

So far this election cycle, Democrats have created a group called Kentucky Family Values. And Republicans have gotten help from an offshoot group of the Republican Governors Association as well as a new group called Restoring America. Such independent expenditure groups can accept unlimited contributions and have used that money to launch TV ad blitzes.

Robyn Williams’ father, Russell County businessman, Terry Stephens, has been involved in financing at least one of those outside independent expenditure groups for Republicans.

Robyn Williams said under her idea — which is similar to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s plan — those groups would be non-existent, leading to “more sunlight” into campaigns and their donors.

In an interview with Pure Politics after her speech, Williams acknowledged that outside groups are a big help to her husband’s campaign.

Earlier this summer, David Williams also received helped in the form of TV ads run by a group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association. Stephens, Robyn Williams’ father, gave $1 million to the RGA. Since then, the RGA’s independent expenditure group, Bluegrass Prosperity, stopped airing ads.

It’s unclear whether Stephens — the owner of Stephens Pipe and Steel in Russell Springs — has contributed to the latest Republican group, Restoring America, that began running ads this week backing David Williams. But Robyn Williams said she is pleased such groups have been helping her husband’s efforts as he has struggled to raise money for his campaign ads.

Robyn Williams also explained to the students her stance on expanded gambling and casinos in Kentucky. As a former district judge, Robyn Williams said she dealt with many people who had addictions, including gambling addictions.

And because of that experience, she said she can’t support casinos in Kentucky.

-Reporting and video production by Don Weber


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