March 16, 2010 |

Campaign finance reform introduced by Sen. Costa

Senator Jane Earll (R-49) and Senator Jay Costa (D-43) have introduced campaign finance reform legislation that would place limits on campaign contributions and prohibit the use of campaign funds for personal use.

"Pennsylvania is one of only 11 states that do not protect their citizens, elections and government from the corrosive impacts of unlimited campaign contributions," said Sen. Earll. "This campaign finance reform bill will help balance the influence in the process by restricting expenditures and limiting campaign contributions made by individuals and committees, as well as between the various types of committees."

"Recent court decisions, both federal and state, have highlighted the urgent need for the General Assembly to act now in the area of campaign finance." Sen. Costa said, "It is vitally important that Pennsylvania renew the process of reforming our campaign finance laws by placing reasonable restrictions on political contributions and expenditures that are overwhelmingly supported by the public."

Senate Bill 1269 would amend the Pennsylvania Election Code to set campaign contribution limits per election, including in-kind contributions. The following is a partial list of contribution limits:

• $500 from any individual to any candidate for office in the General Assembly, court of common pleas, county or local office or to the candidate's committee or agent.

• $2,400 from any individual to any candidate for statewide office, authorized committee or agent.

• $5,000 from a single political action committee to any candidate for statewide office, the General Assembly, court of common pleas or a county or local office, authorized committee or agent.

• Committee to committee contributions may not exceed $5,000 per election.

• Maximum $100,000 in contributions from committees for office in the General Assembly, court of common pleas or a county or local office.

• Maximum $250,000 in aggregate contributions from committees for statewide office.

• No person who has a fiduciary contract for services with the General Assembly may engage in campaign finance activity for candidates of the General Assembly. (This includes contributions, fund raising activities, or involvement in political action committees or candidate political committees.)

• Penalty for violations of a contribution limit is a fine equal to three times the amount of money which exceeded the limit.

The campaign finance reform bill also prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal uses.

Personal uses include home mortgage, home rent, utility payment, clothing purchase, noncampaign automobile expense, country club membership, vacation or a trip of noncampaign nature, admission to a sporting event, concert, theater, or other form of entertainment and other such expenditures not specifically and directly necessary for the conduct of a campaign.

The bipartisan campaign finance reform legislation has 15 co-sponsors. Senator Earll and Senator Costa expect public hearings on the measure in the near future.

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