Wednesday, December 22, 2004
You know it's bad when lobbyists are demanding reform.
As Scott Rothschild reports in the Lawrence Journal World, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has called for an overhaul of the state's laws on disclosing where the money comes from to run political ads. The call comes in response to a spate of ads run in recent elections by shadowy groups who don't disclose the source of their funding to voters.
Current Kansas law, which allows these groups to avoid disclosing their backers by dressing up their political ads as "issue ads", is a joke, according to Kansas Lieutenant Governor Shelby Smith in a letter on behalf of a lobbyist organization.
Wait. Lobbyists? Is the earth still spinning? The sun still shining in the sky? Well, aside from the interest in good government that is such a hallmark of most lobbyists, one factor that might lend itself to their support for disclosure rules is that it distracts attention from the need for reforms beyond disclosure that would level the playing field for Kansans that can't afford to hire lobbyists.
Such reforms might include public financing of elections, spending limits, or lowering Kansas's contribution limits - $2,000 per cycle for statewide candidates, $1,000 for candidates for the Kansas Senate, $500 for candidates for the Kansas House, no limits on contributions to political action committees - to a level that more of my fellow Kansans could afford.
Improving disclosure is an important step however. As Dan Sevart, chair of the commission, put it, disclosure is important "so that the voting public can have a more informed basis to evaluate the advertising materials to which they are exposed."