Thursday, April 9, 2009 | 2:07 a.m.
Nevada’s campaign finance reporting requirements are among the weakest in the nation, and attempts to strengthen the laws have routinely fallen flat in the Legislature.
Current law allows candidates and elected officials to go months between reporting donations during an election year. It also allows them to take money in the last week before an election without disclosing it until long after ballots are cast.
As David McGrath Schwartz reported in Wednesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Secretary of State Ross Miller wants to change the law. He wants candidates to file their contributions to his office via the Internet, making reports legible and searchable. He also wants candidates to file more often, particularly in the days before an election, so voters can see who is making a last-minute push to support candidates.
Like his predecessors who have tried to make similar changes, Miller is running into a bipartisan wall of opposition.
Lawmakers said Miller’s proposal would create too much work and scare good candidates away from running. Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the proposal “seems onerous.” Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said Internet filing would “deter” people without computers from running.
Are they kidding? Meeting the requirements would be no more onerous than filling out the current forms, and if a candidate running for office doesn’t have a computer, surely he could find someone to help, or go to the local library.
The fact is these requirements will do nothing to deter qualified people running for office. (Besides, in a state that has produced an incompetent governor, Jim Gibbons, not to mention former Clark County commissioners Dario Herrera, Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, Erin Kenny and Lance Malone, who were all convicted on political corruption charges, can we really do any worse?)
The ridiculous arguments against Miller’s proposals are intended to protect incumbents who can raise a lot of campaign money and would rather do it with little scrutiny. It is no wonder the public is fed up with the current system and such disingenuous attempts to block transparency.
By passing Miller’s proposals, lawmakers would take a step toward lessening the public’s cynicism, and that would actually help in the effort to recruit better candidates.