Monday, February 11, 2008
[verbatim statement] JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood—as he has done since 2004—is again calling on state lawmakers to reform campaign finance laws.
Hood is pushing for a law that requires:
Campaign contributions sent to a candidate through a political action committee (PAC) at the candidate's direction to be considered a direct donation to that candidate and be reportable as such.
Disclosure of sources giving to "soft money" political advertising bought by special interest groups seeking to support or oppose a particular candidate.
Candidates to disclose the name of any individual make them loans or extending them credit, and to require candidates to report how such money was used.
Electronic reporting of donations and expenditures by state candidates in excess of $75,000 in a calendar year.
"Despite the recent attacks on my character and innuendo about my honesty in regard to the campaign contributions which I have accepted, I am the only current statewide elected official who has consistently called for meaningful campaign finance reforms," said General Hood.
"Since my election in 2003, I have always sought these changes. Rather than level attacks at me for following the law as it exists presently, my critics would be better advised to join me in pushing for these reforms," he said.
General Hood reminded citizens what others have said about the need for campaign finance reform and Hood's efforts:
"* Over time, loopholes have been exposed that circumvent the intent of Mississippi's reporting laws. As a result, over the past three years, Secretary of State Eric Clark, Attorney General Jim Hood and a plethora of public interest and good government groups have sought to update the law. But, in each of the past three sessions, the threat of a veto by Barbour, a former lobbyist and master of political campaigning, has blocked reform." The Clarion-Ledger, April 9, 2006.
"Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says he plans to sponsor an "all-out push" for campaign finance reform this next year. That's a laudable goal. There are some gaping holes in the state's current campaign finance laws, and Hood is correct to promote greater accountability in the system. There's just one problem: Gov. Haley Barbour." Hattiesburg American, Aug. 12, 2004
"No matter how strong our laws are regarding money and politics, they are worthless unless they are enforced. Jim Hood was elected state attorney general last year despite someone spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on television commercials attacking him. Hood still does not know who spent that money, but he is determined to rid Mississippi politics of such secrecy." The Sun Herald , Feb. 15, 2004.
When it comes to political campaigns, the playing field should be level for everyone, said General Hood. "It's an issue of fairness, honesty and integrity - and it is incumbent upon all individuals, all parties, all organizations, including the media, to practice those words."
Given some of the Federal (US Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit) cases on this subject, it may require a constitutional amendment to state that disclosure of the identity of campaign donors can be required without violating the First Amendment. Either Sen. Obama or McCain could possibly support such a move, as would most of the public. The origin of the cases protecting confidentiality of political supporters, I think, is the NAACP case from the 1950s. One can certainly understand why the NAACP wanted its supporters in the South to be protected from disclosure -- that was a matter of life or death in some locales. But those times have changed, and its perverse to apply those rulings to protect big money contributors -- whether corporations, unions, lawyers, or whatever.
This is a good thing and I hope that Hood is victorious. Big Money buys little fariness in government and these Big Problems lead to a Big MESS!
From the Sun-Herald today: Basic computer technology - the kind found in almost every office or classroom in America - is giving people easy access to candidates' campaign finance information in many states. But not in Mississippi. A nationwide, yearly study that grades states on how they inform voters about where politicians get their campaign donations gives Mississippi a fat "F" and ranks it 47th out of 50. What's more, while many other states have improved in recent years, Mississippi had a backslide, dropping from a D to an F. Mississippi's main problem is that it does not present candidates' campaign finance information in a searchable database, says Will Barrett, an author of "Grading State Disclosure 2007." The project is a partnership between the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Center for Governmental Studies, the UCLA School of Law and the California Voter Foundation. "Fourteen states received an overall F," Barrett said. "Mississippi got Fs in three out of four categories." While Mississippi's disclosure law is middling, graded a C-minus, the information is not presented in a way that's easy for the public to determine who might be holding a candidate's purse strings.
Of course they don't want you to know. It'll never pass, sadly.