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Editorial: State campaign fund laws need overhaul

Last Modified: Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:17 PM

Recently, state legislative committees that oversee campaign finance laws began looking at the appropriate use of campaign funds.

One problem is that even the Louisiana Board of Ethics, the group that oversees candidate compliance with campaign finance laws, has had issues deciding what is an acceptable use of funds and what is not.

Robert Travis Scott, president of the Public Affairs Research Council, recently spoke to the group looking over these laws in Baton Rouge.

PAR is a Louisiana governmental research group that studies ethics and campaign-finance issues.

Scott is all for candidates giving more detailed information when outlining their expenditures. If a candidate uses campaign funds to buy a gift for someone for instance, the candidate should disclose who the recipient of that gift is, he said.

Scott advocates looking at Federal Elections Commission regulations, which include lists of do’s and don’ts for those running for Congress, and using these regulations as a guide for our state’s campaign fund ethics.

The federal regulations spell out, among other things, that if a certain expense would still exist whether the individual was a candidate or public office holder or not, then a personal-use ban applies and campaign funds cannot be used for that purpose. So personal mortgage payments and health club dues would not be able to be used as a legitimate expense.

In 2012, PAR released the report, “Toward Stronger Ethics: The Next Steps Forward for Louisiana’s Ethics and Campaign Finance Laws.”

In the report, PAR argues that the U.S. law defining and restricting the personal use of campaign finance money for federal elected offices provides good guidelines for a Louisiana reform.

The full PAR report can be accessed on the group’s website at www.parlouisiana.com.

We applaud PAR’s efforts to push for guidelines that would be easier for candidates, public office holders and the public to understand and eliminate some of the shenanigans related to the use of campaign funds by elected officials and candidates.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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