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Senate panel endorses campaign finance reform bills

Published: Friday, March 7 2014 6:58 p.m. MST

Campaign signs in Utah back in 2006.

Sarah Ause, Deseret News Archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — Candidates for public office who fail to report campaign contributions on time might have to pay fines.

And a newly revised House bill would also require candidates in contested races to report donations within three days when an election or political convention is 30 days or fewer away. The measure is designed to make late infusions of cash into campaigns more transparent.

The Senate Business and Labor Committee combined bills sponsored by Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City, and Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, addressing campaign finance disclosures. It voted unanimously to endorse the bill.

HB246 would impose a $50 or 15 percent fine, whichever is higher, on campaign contributions that aren't reported within the 30-day period required by law. There currently isn't a penalty for failing to meet the deadline.

The revised bill now has several provisions from Bramble's bill, including requiring the state elections office to notify candidates about the reporting requirements each January. It also calls for the Legislature's website to include a link to lawmakers' financial disclosure reports.

The bill does not include campaign contribution limits that were part of Bramble's original measure.

The committee also unanimously endorsed HB394, which would significantly expand the information candidates and officeholders have to show on financial reports. The bill is the result of the House committee's investigation of former Attorney General John Swallow.

The measure would require candidates to list what and where items such as signs were purchased in their campaigns, not just list a payment to Visa or PayPal. It also calls for them to disclose expenditures made by their political consultants.

"The political consultant becomes an extension of the candidate," said bill sponsor Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville.

The House passed the bill earlier in the week. Lawmakers intend to make the new laws effective starting with the 2014 election cycle.

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

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