Still in Limbo: Free up campaign finance bill for a vote
Dallas Morning News Editorial
Thursday, April 21, 2005
It's not clear who's stopping the House from overhauling campaign laws, but whoever is pulling the strings is doing a bang-up job. Unfortunately, Texans are the worse for it.
Ninety-three count them, 93 representatives support the House's leading campaign finance bill, HB 1348. Republicans and Democrats alike back the package, but the reformers can't get it to the floor.
GOP House Speaker Tom Craddick prides himself on letting members work their will, but not with this legislation. It remains bottled up in GOP Rep. Mary Denny's House Elections Committee. The co-sponsors and the bill's authors, Democratic Rep. Craig Eiland and GOP Rep. Todd Smith, still await the chance to clean up Texas campaigns.
This measure would benefit us all by tightening the loopholes that allow corporations, unions and trade groups to muscle in on state legislative races. If you wonder whether this is a problem, look at the judicial investigation into whether Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee broke campaign laws by illegally using corporate money in 2002 legislative races.
The PAC contends the corporate money was used for its administrative expenses, not political activities. We'll see how this case plays out, but the state won't have any confusion going forward if the Eiland/Smith bill passes. It clearly spells out what is and isn't a campaign administrative expense.
It also would stop corporations, unions and trade associations from using treasury funds to pay for "issue ads" 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election. Groups have used their huge treasury funds to run those ads to tar-and-feather a candidate without really saying, "Vote against" him or her.
The House obviously wants to stop these practices. Mr. Craddick and Ms. Denny should give their colleagues the chance.