AUGUSTA — Political candidates, party committees and political action committees would no longer have to report certain contributions and expenditures within 24 hours under a bill sponsored by a top Republican.
Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason’s bill would apply to contributions of at least $5,000 and expenditures of $1,000 made in the 14 days before election.
It would mean the public would have to wait more than a month after the election to see such campaign finance reports.
Mason, of Lisbon Falls, claimed the 24-hour reporting requirement is a “relic” from the state’s first publicly funded elections program.
At the time, Mason said that 24-hour reports were put into place so the state ethics commission could provide matching funds that have since been eliminated.
“Especially in Maine, where most of these campaigns are just run out of the back of our cars, it’s another government reporting requirement that’s not necessary anymore,” Mason said.
But a 48-hour reporting requirement predates the 1996 Clean Election Act.
The advocacy group Maine Citizens for Clean Elections says 24-hour reports inform the public about the deluge of ads in the final days before an election. Last year, 24-hour reports disclosed more than $1.4 million in spending, much of that for ballot campaigns that raked in a record amount of money.
“Disclosure is key to voters being able to make informed decisions at the ballot box and to interpret ads they’re seeing,” said Andrew Bossie, the group’s executive director.
The bill’s co-sponsors include Democrats, Republicans and independent Rep. Owen Casas. According to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, none of the bill sponsors have filed a late 24-hour report.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 14 states require a candidate to disclose receipts of contributions within 24 hours, with some states requiring such disclosure in just the days before an election and others, like California, requiring such reporting within 90 days of the election.
On the federal level, political committees face 24-hour reporting requirements for independent expenditures supporting or opposing candidates made within 20 days of the election.
The state ethics commission in 2011 proposed increasing the state’s reporting requirement to 48 hours and again allowing reports to be filed by noon on the next business day.
A public hearing is set for March 27.