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Bill Would Double Campaign Finance Disclosures

Legislation doubling campaign finance reporting, tighting up the laws governing political action committees in Texas and adding more detail to officeholders personal financial disclosures was unveiled Monday by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington.

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Texas candidates and officeholders would have to file quarterly campaign finance reports — instead of semiannual ones — under legislation filed by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, who wants to overhaul parts of the state's financial disclosure laws.

Following in the footsteps of House Bill 413, which aims to undo an obscure loophole that makes it possible for politicians to simultaneously collect a salary and an annual pension, Turner’s bills would require more detail in personal financial statements and a shift from semiannual campaign finance reports to a quarterly ones.

HB 2190 would adjust the spending categories currently used in the PFS form, moving the maximum amount range that must be disclosed for salaries and stock values from “$25,000 or more” up to “$5 million or more.” The bill would also require disclosure of sources of earned or unearned income, such as pensions and retirement accounts, that currently go undisclosed.

“Elected officials owe it to the people they represent to be as open and transparent as possible,” Turner said in a press release. “By requiring us to report incomes from pensions, this bill goes hand-in-hand with the measure I filed to prohibit ‘double-dipping’ in our state.”

HB 2190 would require those documents — which now are not required to be posted online — to be made available on the internet within 15 days after they are filed. That's similar to Sen. Rodney EllisSenate Bill 417, which would require statements to be made available no later than 10 business days after filing.

HB 2191 would require candidates to file four campaign finance reports reports each year instead of two. Under current law, candidates file reports in January and July, with more reports required when they're on an election ballot. HB 2191 would add mid-April and mid-October filing deadlines. The bill also would require candidates to be clearer about how much cash they actually have on hand, taking into account any pending credit card transactions or negotiations.

HB 2191 would also require all in-kind political contributions to be totaled and reported, and the amounts of each outstanding bill and invoice to be disclosed.

HB 1999 would require specific-purpose political action committees, or SPACs, to follow the same rules in place for general purpose PACs.

“Every PAC should have to follow the same set of rules,” Turner said. “My legislation simply imposes the same set of rules on local PACs that state PACs currently have.”

Currently, only general-purpose PACs are required to report the names of campaign treasurers to the Texas Ethics Commission at least 60 days before authorizing political contributions or expenditures for the committee. Under current law, SPACs can also spend money before receiving at least 10 contributions from individuals. Combined, the absence of these two laws makes it easier for SPACs to accept large sums of money and make sizable expenditures without timely disclosure.

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