Gibbons calls for tougher campaign disclosure laws
LAS VEGAS (AP) – U.S. Congressman and candidate for governor Jim Gibbons has issued a call for tougher campaign finance reporting laws, saying recent influence-peddling controversies were eroding the public’s trust in government.
“Many Nevadans have contacted me in the past several weeks to express their concerns over scandals that have plagued politicians from both political parties, from Washington, D.C., to Carson City,” Gibbons said in a statement Friday. “The voting public is concerned that there is not enough transparency in Nevada’s political process.”
Several state lawmakers have come under scrutiny for accepting free tickets to a Rolling Stones concert from a lobbyist and attending NASCAR races as guests of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which won a tax exemption from the Legislature. The debate also comes after a prominent Washington lobbyist was indicted on corruption charges.
Gibbons said he would support more frequent, online reporting of who is donating to lawmakers’ campaigns, and would push to change laws so contributions were reported before Election Day.
“I firmly believe that voters have a right to know where candidates receive their support before they cast their votes,” Gibbons said.
Other candidates in the 2006 governor’s race largely agreed with the Nevada Republican’s proposals, saying more disclosure is better. But they also said the plan smelled of election-year posturing.
Democratic Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson said the proposal was “another typical Jim Gibbons populist response that is really very general” and short on specifics.
“I think the record might reveal he’s not taken much interest in this before,” said state Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas.
In 2002, Gibbons voted against the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, federal legislation that banned large unregulated donations by corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.
Gibbons campaign spokesman Robert Uithoven said the congressman voted against the bill because he believed it was unconstitutional. He said Gibbons had served on a campaign finance task force as a freshman and was a co-sponsor on a reform bill in 1997.
Titus said the real barrier to transparency is the use of limited liability corporations that mask contributors’ identities. Titus has called for LLCs that contribute to candidates to disclose the name of each person who holds an ownership interest of 1 percent or more in the business entity.
Gibbons and Gibson both reported contributions from LLCs, and neither have plans to change how they report contributions.
“Jim Gibbons would be happy to work with Dina Titus and the rest of the Legislature to determine if that’s the best course of action,” Uithoven said. “Right now he’ll continue to abide by the current state law.”
Currently, state candidates office file three donor disclosure reports annually – first in mid-January, then seven months later a week before the primary election and then again one week before the general election. Contributions of more than $100 must be reported. The reports are posted online by the secretary of state’s office.
Uithoven said the congressman hasn’t decided how often he believes lawmakers should file reports, but thinks it would be reasonable to report five business days after receiving a contribution.
State Sen. Bob Beers, Gibbons’ opponent for the Republican nomination, said he questioned whether moving to more frequent, online reporting was financially feasible.
“I certainly don’t think it should be more often than quarterly, and we need to find out from the secretary of state’s office what that would cost,” he said. “If we’re merely providing entertainment for candidates and reporters, then probably not. If there’s an interest on the part of the public, then we should … find out the costs.”
A spokesman for Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt, also a candidate the Republican nomination, did not return a call for comment.
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