The 10-member bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Legislative Work Group has wrapped up its final meeting of 2017, recommending sweeping new changes to Idaho’s nationally-maligned campaign finance laws. 

The draft legislation expands the scope and frequency of disclosures of candidate contributions and expenditures, establishes online searchable databases for the public to view campaign reports and increases the penalties for campaign finance violators.  

In addition, the Work Group voted to explore requiring candidates to disclose the scope and value of their personal finances.  It also recommended considering legislation that would restrict sitting House and Senate members, as well as declared candidates for the State Legislature, from accepting campaign contributions during the legislative session.

After pushing their own campaign finance and ethics legislation over the last decade, Democrats saw the formation of the Work Group as a big victory for reform.

“Overall, I’m pleased with what the Working Group has accomplished,” said Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise).  “I think my GOP colleagues understand the need for this kind of reform in order to maintain confidence in our state election process.”

Perhaps the biggest bone of contention in the final meeting was whether various lobbying laws should apply to local officials.  The committee co-chair asked for unanimous consent to delete certain key provisions from the draft legislation.  This drew a quick objection from Rep. Erpelding, forcing a roll call vote on the matter. Although the motion passed 6-4 in favor of deleting the provisions, Erpelding managed to bring two dissenting GOP votes to his side along with fellow Democratic Work Group member Senator Michelle Stennett/(D-Ketchum).

“Anyone who doesn’t think lobbying goes on at the local level either has their head in the sand or is willfully ignoring the realities of local political life,” Rep. Erpelding said.   

The recommended draft legislation will be presented to the full legislature in 2018.  If passed, it would go into effect in July 2019.