Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Campaign contribution bill passes House, heads to Senate

A bill that would double individual campaign contribution limits in Kentucky has passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 147, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would double the limit on individual campaign contributions from $1,000 to $2,000 as of this July and double the annual limit on individual contributions to a party’s state executive committee and affiliates from $2,500 to $5,000. It would also double from $10,000 to $20,000 the overall amounts allowed from permanent, executive and caucus campaign committees.

Stumbo said the individual campaign contribution limit proposed in HB 147 would still be below the national average of $2,400 to $5,600 per contribution. Twelve states have no contribution limits, he said.

The increased limits are only part of the bill, which would also allow corporate contributions to political party building funds and allow married couples to write one check for a contribution up to the individual limits of each spouse.

An amendment sponsored by House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, was added to the bill that would allow candidates to spend up to $200 (instead of the current $100) in campaign contributions to buy tickets to a campaign event. It would also limit establishment of building fund accounts to state executive committees of a political party whose candidate received no less than 15 percent of the total vote in the last regular election.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said he does not think current contribution limits should be changed. He also said he opposed allow corporate contributions to building fund accounts.

“If we can’t sustain our party headquarters by the grassroots folks that believe in the principles of our parties, then what are we doing? We’re just selling our souls,” said Wayne.

Stumbo said the bill “simply raises the bar for campaign donations” in today’s political environment--adding that the state limits have not been changed since 1998.

HB 147 passed the House by a vote of 71-22 and now goes to the Senate. Rep. Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, voted for the bill.