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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: October 25, 2019 08:44 AM
From: Senator Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Campaign Finance Reform
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to comprehensively provide transparency and accountability in our political campaign finance system. The legislation will address the excessive corporate influence in our political system, from both at home and abroad, on our elections, remove the opportunity to take personal advantage of campaign contributions, and protect the integrity and fairness of our electoral process.

Recent media reports have also shown that the use of credit cards and gift cards have provided campaign committees with a method to obscure from public view how political action committee money is being used. In many cases, the expenses may be crossing the line into personal use, but because it’s difficult or impossible to see what the expense are, there is no accountability. To that end, my legislation will require credit card statements to be filed with campaign finance reports, ban the purchase of gift cards with PAC money, and define “personal purpose” so that the law is clear about the types of expenses that are prohibited. Filing of credit card statements will additionally prevent expenses from being aggregated and paid for all at once, so that the public can see each expense.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, there has been a massive increase in corporate influence of elections through secret corporate “independent expenditures” made to influence the outcome of an election. Since these contributing corporations remain undisclosed, the public stays in the dark about who a candidate’s donors are and, what’s more, it’s nearly impossible to discern whether a corporate donor is significantly owned, in whole or in part, by a foreign national. My legislation will require the disclosure of expenses to these entities so that the public knows who is trying to influence our elections.

It would also empower public requestors to challenge a campaign’s wrongful denial of access to its vouchers, which are supposed to be available for public inspection, before the Department of State and provide the Department with clear authority to enforce such access through penalties.

The bill also would limit the donations and expenditures to and from candidates, political committees, political action committees, political party committees or other persons, for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election. Limits on contributions and on the amount of donations candidates can take in will level the political playing field and limit corporate influence on our political system.

Additionally, the bill would ban foreign corporate influence over our elections by prohibiting any corporation with a foreign owner holding at least 5% ownership (or foreign owners holding 20% ownership in the aggregate) from making independent expenditures, electioneering communication expenditures or contributions to political committees that make only independent expenditures (“super PACs”) for purposes of spending state and local elections in the Commonwealth.

The people deserve to be fully informed about a candidate’s financial backers. My bill would restore the people’s confidence that their elections are not bought and paid for by corporate entities, both domestic and foreign.

Introduced as SB11