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Pa. House amends campaign finance bills to cover all nonprofits and require more detailed reports

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Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
April 15, 2024

Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Pennsylvania House passed amendments on Monday to a pair of bills to make campaign finance reporting requirements for state lawmakers more robust and and increase the transparency of independent expenditures in elections.

House Bill 1220, sponsored by state Rep. Robert Freeman (D-Northampton), would bring reporting requirements for state lawmakers into line with those for candidates for statewide office. It would require fundraising and expense reports to be filed on or before the sixth Tuesday before an election, in addition to filing reports on the second Friday before the election.

An amendment by state Rep. Jamie Barton (R-Schuylkill) would require candidates to list the details of reimbursements for expenditures made on behalf of candidates or committees. 

“The whole purpose of the campaign finance reporting system is to let the public know what is being purchased with campaign funds. And that principle should apply to both reimbursements and direct purchases made by the campaign,” Barton said before the amendment passed unanimously.

The amendment to Freeman’s bill, which Freeman said is intended to give the public more time to see who financially supports candidates, follows reporting last summer that House former Democratic Campaign Committee Chairperson Trevor Southerland was dismissed after audits foundthat proper financial procedures had not been followed.

Broad+Liberty reported that the HDCC’s campaign finance reports showed Southerland had received more than $365,000 in payments listed as “reimbursements” since 2021, with much of it being paid in five-figure sums.

House Bill 1472, which is sponsored by state Rep. Jared Solomon (D-Philadelphia), would amend the Pennsylvania election code to require the reporting of campaign finance reports from civic leagues and 501(c)(4) tax-exempt social welfare organizations that independently advocate for or against candidates for office.

Rep. Brett Miller (R-Lancaster) proposed an amendment to make the bill more broadly cover all tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c) of the federal tax code.

“If the goal is to end dark money in our elections, rather than picking or choosing which organizations to apply these requirements to, or leaving potential loopholes through an entity changing its filing status with the IRS, this amendment would be even handed and comprehensive in applying to all IRS designations and give the greatest opportunity for transparency of contributions to the people of Pennsylvania,” Miller said.

Miller’s amendment also passed unanimously. 

State Rep. Brad Roae (R-Crawford), who is the ranking Republican member of the House State Government Committee, argued Solomon’s bill would run afoul of the 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a California law that required politically involved nonprofits to report their donors.

Roae proposed an amendment delaying the implementation of the nonprofit reporting requirement until the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its decision on the California law at some point in the future. House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) ruled the amendment violated the House rule providing that no bill shall be passed containing more than one subject.

HB 1220 and HB 1472 will be put up for final consideration as soon as Tuesday before going to the state Senate for consideration.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.