Senate could vote on bill doubling campaign donor cap by Friday, Thayer says

03/04/2015 09:52 PM

FRANKFORT — State lawmakers may double the cap on individual campaign contributions after a Senate committee amended and approved legislation on the topic Wednesday.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee sent House Bill 203 to the chamber floor with only one panelist, Democratic Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, voting “pass.”

HB 203, sponsored by Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, originally established a new $3,000 threshold for candidates to file campaign finance reports, but an amended version of the bill presented by Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer would instead double individual political campaign contribution limits from $1,000 to $2,000.

The legislation would also restrict donors to $2,500 in contributions to party executive committees and their affiliate groups, and the caps would be adjusted based on the consumer price index, similar to federal campaign limits, said Thayer, R-Georgetown.

The Senate may vote on the measure Friday, he said, adding the General Assembly has lacked “a willingness to move forward on an issue like this” in recent years. House Speaker Greg Stumbo is among those who endorse increasing contribution limits.

“I do know that Speaker Stumbo is in agreement and support of this, and we tried to put items in there that would get some bipartisan support,” Thayer told Pure Politics in an interview.

Stumbo offered a bill last year that would trigger contribution thresholds of $2,500 per individual donor for gubernatorial candidates once someone in the race invests more than $1 million in his or her campaign.

The Prestonsburg Democrat said Wednesday he supports increasing the $1,000-per-individual fundraising restriction for candidates, which hasn’t been adjusted since the mid-1990s.

“If you’re going to be able to someway check the use of all this corporate money that comes in here, you have to give candidates the ability to raise money on their own,” he said.

The amendments to HB 203 troubled Emily Dennis, general counsel for the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, because the agency is in the process of finding a new executive director.

Kentucky’s campaign limits need to be raised, she said, but the agency needs time to implement the new policy. HB 203, if enacted, would take effect in time for this year’s gubernatorial election.

“We would certainly welcome the opportunity to meet, discuss and formulate legislation that increases contribution limits and reviews or even changes the reporting requirements,” Dennis said. “We would just ask that you take into consideration the timing of this legislation.”


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