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Berman’s campaign finance bill advances

Rep. Leo Berman’s HB2491, the only campaign finance reform bill to make it out of committee so far, is now one step closer to passing out of the House. For what it’s worth.

Craig McDonald, executive director of the Austin-based campaign finance reform group, Texans for Public Justice, said the bill “should have taken the opportunity to define (issue advertisements) and should have made it clear that corporations can only support their own political action committees.”

McDonald said corporate money in the past has been used to fund issue ads that were political in nature, even though the ads did not specifically say “vote for” or “vote against” a particular person.

[…]

Berman’s bill clarifies a list of administrative expenses that corporations and unions can fund under Texas law through their political action committees. They include office space, telephones and utilities.

The bill also spells out expenditures that corporations and unions cannot fund, including political consulting to support or oppose a candidate, telephone banks to communicate with voters to support or oppose a candidate, electioneering brochures and direct mail.

Berman said he tried to win over critics by defining electioneering, a nonpermissible expenditure, which he said includes political campaigning or direct mail. He said he couldn’t fathom anyone opposing his bill now. “It specifies what you can and cannot do,” he said.

Well, I don’t oppose it, but as I indicated in my previous post, it’s not clear to me that this is a better approach than the common sense one we had before. In nearly 100 years of the current law’s existence, it wasn’t until someone as brazen and amoral as Tom DeLay and his crew came along that anyone really tried to flout it. I recognize that Berman’s bill would have slammed the door on the approach DeLay took in 2002, but the problem with specifying what’s forbidden is that it invites the seeking of loopholes. Maybe he’s covered the bases better, I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like it’s really doing anything, I guess.

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2 Comments

  1. Sabestian says:

    You have captured the essence of Berman: “It just doesn’t feel like it’s really doing anything, I guess.” It should be his campaign slogan.

  2. Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots says:

    Pardon the delay, having computer difficulties, and …

    Important for today Thursday:

    (512) 463-0584

    This is the Capitol office phone number of Texas State Representative Leo Berman of Smith County who chairs the House Elections Committee. As Chairman, he is the gatekeeper who decides which bills will be heard before the committee and which will not.

    Late yesterday, Rep. Berman disclosed his intentions of not allowing HB 3894, the “Texas Hand-Counted Paper Ballot Bill”, to come before the Elections Committee next Wednesday for a public hearing.
    His reasons? He said:

    1) Even if the bill gets a hearing next week, it’s too late for the bill to be heard on the House Floor during this session, and

    2) He has decided to “save” discussion about it for an “interim study” which will occur at some point during the 18 months the legislature is not in session. Translation: Slow track.

    (BTW, the next time that the Texas Legislature meets will be in January 2009 – two months after the 2008 General Election.)

    Despite the disappointing news, we are determined to keep HB 3894 moving through the House for as long as possible, so we are not giving up. Rep. Berman must hear from hundreds of citizens TODAY, Thursday, April 26, who demand that he allow the bill to have a public hearing before his committee NEXT WEDNESDAY. Thursdays are when the following week’s agenda for the Elections Committee is decided.

    So, please……..
    Call Leo’s office.
    Right now.
    (512) 463-0584
    (It’s not difficult.)
    Just tell the person who answers why you are calling.
    You’ll feel like you’ve done something because you have.
    Then, check the Vote Rescue website at http://www.VoteRescue.org to find out if HB 3894 is on next week’s agenda.
    If so, pat yourself on the back for helping and plan to come to the hearing next Wednesday. (Check the website again for details.)
    At the hearing, speak from your heart. (Please come, however, even though you may not wish to speak.)
    Send this message to everyone you know

    Thank you,
    The Vote Rescue Legislative Action Team

    Questions? Call Karen at 512-496-7408 or Vickie at 512-775-3737

    Karen Renick
    Director, VoteRescue
    http://www.VoteRescue.org
    [email protected]