Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007 | 7:04 a.m.
For the third straight year, the Campaign Disclosure Project gave Nevada an F for the way political candidates report the contributions given to them. The group ranked Nevada 44th in the nation based on the strength of campaign disclosure laws.
The Campaign Disclosure Project - a coalition of the UCLA School of Law, the Center for Governmental Studies and the California Voter Foundation - annually reviews disclosure laws in the nation. The group found Nevada's laws to lax, failing to require candidates to report basic details about donors and campaign expenses. Those details are important because they can indicate illegal donations. There are other problems with the law as well - the state requires only a few filings a year, meaning many donations don't get reported before an election, and enforcement provisions to ensure compliance are weak.
The group also found that although campaign filings are posted on the secretary of state's Web site, they cannot be searched for information such as the donor's name, the date of the donation or the amount, making it onerous to look up campaign donations. Also, state law does not mandate electronic filing, which leaves citizens often looking at handwritten campaign records online, which can be difficult to decipher.
Sadly, the report paints an accurate picture of campaign finance laws in Nevada. Lawmakers have rebuffed previous attempts to significantly strengthen the law, and that is a terrible shame. Disclosure laws are important because they help determine the level of transparency in political decision-making. Citizens should be able to see clearly who is funding the campaigns of policymakers.
This is a matter of good government. It is also a way to boost the public's trust, which in the aftermath of the G-Sting public corruption scandal is critically important. Nevada's law, however, does little to help build the public's confidence. The Legislature should do the right thing and strengthen the law, mandating electronic filing, requiring more filings and making it a serious offense to fail to file.