The heart of any campaign scandal is the mishandling of money or accepting of gifts, usually buried, improperly named or completely left off the reports lobbyists and legislators are required to file several times a year.
Now comes a proposal floated by Jerry Lewis — the Mesa lawmaker who beat Russell Pearce in a recall election last November. The idea pushed by Lewis — who is battling for re-election to the State Senate against Democrat Ed Ableser — would require "real-time" reporting of campaign contributions or in-kind donations to a candidate or lawmaker.
Legislators and lobbyists would have up to seven days to report campaign or in-kind contributions, eliminating the lag time between when money or gifts are given, and the current deadlines for filing a campaign financial report.
The idea already has the backing of several politicos in Phoenix, including Republican Senate President Steve Pierce, Secretary of State Ken Bennet, and Maricopa County prosecutor Bill Montgomery.
It even has the support of Lewis’ opponent on the Nov. 6 ballot — Ableser — who together with fellow Democrats in the Legislature claim to have originated this idea shortly after 28 Phoenix lawmakers were investigated in connection with the Fiesta Bowl ticket scandal last year.
Regardless of its origin, turning the reporting system into a process that eliminates a delay between when a candidate accepts a contribution or in-kind gift, and when that information becomes public record, is a strong deterrent for those trying to avoid accountability. Knowing when a lobbyist representing a special interest is offering cash or in-kind donations — and knowing when our lawmakers accept those contributions — is a step in measuring whether our politicians are bending to special interest influence.
It is also a good way to improve the transparency of the campaign financing process and make lawmakers and lobbyists more responsible to the constituents they represent.
We look forward to this legislation — regardless of who presents it — being heard in the upcoming session of the State Legislature.
Sierra Vista Herald