Fact Finder: Lawmakers Leave Campaign Loophole Open

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 7/15/2013 6:53 pm
We're following up on a Fact Finder Investigation we brought you before the start of the last legislative session.

That's when we uncovered a loophole in the law that allows former lawmakers to hold on to their campaign funds even after they leave office, a practice one lawmaker says is nothing short of a slush fund.

   So you might be wondering, as we were, why two bills designed to close that loophole got shot down in Carson City ?

State Senator Greg Brower, a Reno Republican , introduced SB 194  to eliminate the loophole which allows former candidates to hold on to their campaign accounts indefinitely.

"The point is the legislature never intended for former lawmakers to keep these slush funds intact,"  Brower told News 4.

State law requires former lawmakers to liquidate their campaign accounts within two months after leaving office. 

But, and here's where the loophole comes in,  they can still call themselves candidates, legally, by simply accepting a $100 dollar campaign donation.  

Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley left office at the end of 2010.   She has not filed to run for any other elected office since then.

But campaign records on file with the Nevada Secretary of State's office show Buckley has doled out $190,000 since leaving office to various democratic candidates and political groups.   That's money which was originally donated to help get her elected. And it's that practice that Senator Brower says needs to stop.  Brower insists it is nothing personal toward Buckley.

"It's not about her. It is her example that revealed this loophole," Brower said.

But his bill did not even get a hearing in the democratically controlled Nevada Senate.   A similar bill introduced by Republican Pat Hickey in the Assembly also went nowhere.

"I think what it says is the majority party in the legislature is not serious about campaign finance reform," said Brower.

But Democrats disagree and say since all the money is accounted for in campaign finance reports there's nothing wrong with what Buckley is doing. 

"There are no loopholes.  There's no slush fund, there's no hidden money anywhere," said Senator Tick Segerbom, a Democrat from Las Vegas, when News 4 asked him about the practice.

But others on the outside say this campaign loophole needs to be closed.

UNR political science professor Dr. Eric Herzik says under the current system there's no limit to how long someone can hold on to and dole out their campaign funds, as long as they take in $100.  

"When are you a candidate and when aren't you ?  In my opinion you probably do want to have some sort of time limit on how far candidates can stretch this money into the future, " Herzik told News 4.

Brower's bill would have capped it at two years.  But again, his bill wasn't even brought up for debate.

He says he won't give up.

"It is not what the law was intended to allow.  It is the classic loophole that should be closed," Brower added.

Many Democrats say they expect former Speaker Barbara Buckley to run for office again at some point.
News 4 called her office in Las Vegas last week to find out if she has any concrete plans to run for office.  She did not return our call for story.

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vietnamvet25 - 7/16/2013 9:29 AM
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I don't know if this is a partisan move on Browers part or the NV republican committee ??? I agree with what he is trying to do I just want it to be for the right reasons. Ethical not political.... But as in all things political in this state and in DC everything is political and not about what the voters want
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