Campaign finance reform bill introduced with days left in Nevada session

Vegas News

Ryan Tarinelli / AP

In this April 22, 2019, file photo Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro speaks at an event in Carson City.

Saturday, June 1, 2019 | 8:04 p.m.

CARSON CITY — Two days before the end of the session, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, has introduced an emergency bill that would create new campaign finance guidelines for Nevada elections.

The bill would require organizations making more than $10,000 in annual campaign contributions — to one or multiple candidates — to file a report with the Secretary of State. It also strengthens the language around the guidelines for personal use of campaign funds.

“This provision will create a check on candidates’ contribution reporting,” Cannizzaro said in a statement. “Ensuring the public’s trust in our elected officials and candidates running for office is of the utmost importance and I am proud to introduce this bill to strengthen Nevada’s campaign finance laws.”

Under the bill, personal use is defined as “any use of contributions to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense” that would arise regardless of the existence of a political campaign.

The bill comes after a high-profile campaign finance scandal earlier in the session, in which then-Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson resigned after admitting to misusing around $250,000 in campaign funds for, among other things, opening a nightclub and renting an SUV.

Atkinson’s sentencing is set for July 11, and he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for wire fraud.

The bill would define public use to match with the Federal Election Commission’s definitions, differing only in that state politicians would be unable to use campaign funds to pay themselves a salary. The reports that organizations must file include every contribution over $100 made to candidates, and the total of all contributions made to candidates under $100.

The bill comes after lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 45 in 2017, which reformed a few campaign finance rules, including requiring campaigns to report cash on hand when they file finance reports.

“(Assembly Bill 45) required more regular reporting schedules and included a provision that finance reports must include an ending fund balance,” Cannizzaro said. “Both of these measures provide more transparency in regard to candidate fundraising and spending. AB45 became effective in January of this year and I believe we will see the benefits of that reform in the months and years to come.”

The bill will have to move through the legislative process quickly, as the Session is scheduled to end Monday night.

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