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3/19/2015 House bills look to tighten loopholes in campaign finance reporting
STATE HOUSE – Two more bills that address campaign finance reporting have been submitted in the House of Representatives in an effort to tighten loopholes in existing laws.

In legislation (2015-H 5935) submitted by Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown), the Board of Elections would conduct annual random audits of 5 percent of all campaign accounts.

 “By requiring the Board of Elections to conduct random audits, we can greatly diminish, if not eliminate, the abuses of campaign finances that we see from time to time,” said Representative Craven, chairman of the House Committee on Municipal Government and former legal counsel to the Rhode Island Board of Elections.

To further strengthen the law, Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence) has introduced a bill (2015-H 5920) that would require the appointment of a treasurer or deputy treasurer other than the candidate to any campaign account that reaches or expends at least $25,000 in any year.  This act also requires the treasurer or deputy treasurer to examine and certify the substantial accuracy of campaign finance reports filed with the board of elections.  The examination and certification provisions would also apply to political action committees.

 “By requiring a separate treasurer on campaigns with large accounts, we’ll have further proof of the accuracy of the reporting, rather than just taking the candidate’s word for it,” said Representative Hearn. “This is just another way to tighten the law and make sure things are above board — by taking away any temptation to use campaign funds for personal expenses.”

The two bills are the latest in a series of legislative proposals that seeks to tighten campaign finance reporting in the wake of the arrest of former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox. The first (2015-H 5789), submitted by House Majority Leader John J. DeSimone (D-Dist. 5, Providence) would require candidates and political action committees to file a copy of the next bank statement from their campaign account that is issued after they file their final ongoing quarterly campaign finance report to the Board of Elections.

“Every time something like this happens, it distracts from the good work everyone in the General Assembly is trying to do day in and day out,” said Leader DeSimone. “We have to spend time trying to regain the public’s trust, when we should be spending that time tending to the business of the state. This bill is one way to stop this from happening in the future.”

The second (2015-H 5840), also submitted by Representative Craven, would require candidates for public office, officeholders and political action committees to maintain separate campaign accounts exclusively for campaign funds.

“This bill will not only protect the integrity of the funds donated to or collected for a political campaign, it will also eliminate the possibility that a candidate or officeholder is using campaign funds inappropriately, either intentionally or otherwise,” said Representative Craven. “It should also help ensure the accuracy of campaign finance reporting, for funds received by a campaign as well as funds expended by the candidate or officeholder or PAC.”

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903