Idaho’s Sunshine laws need reform

Editorial from the Twin Falls Times-News

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney told a reporter last week that he hopes to overhaul parts of the state’s Sunshine Laws — those that promise transparency in government — when the Legislature reconvenes next month.

It’s a long time coming.

Among Denney’s plans are adding serious penalties to those who violate the laws, boosting fines 10-fold from $250 to $2,500. He wants to require candidates and political-action committees to report contributions of more than $1,000 within 24 hours. And he wants all campaign-finance reports posted online, a move that would greatly increase transparency when it comes to determining how money influences state politics.

The proposed changes were first reported by IPTV’s Melissa Davlin, a former Times-News reporter.

Perhaps the best suggestion by Denney is more transparency to help identify those in PACS who spend the political contributions, and crackdowns on so-called “gray money” — cash that moves from PAC to PAC, making it difficult to determine where the cash originated.

Another great proposal: a requirement for any candidate or cause to report contributions of $500 or more, greatly expanding requirements for who would have to disclose political contributions, such as school board candidates.

Denney also hopes to speed up the reporting for political expenditures. Under current law, a campaign doesn’t have to report an expenditure over $1,000 until it is billed, which sometimes occurs after an election. Denney wants those bills reported as soon as the money is committed.

As Davlin pointed out in her report, many of the ideas come from Democratic Secretary of State candidate Holli Woodings. We’re not too troubled. A good idea is a good idea, and Denney, a Republican, should be commended for recognizing one when he sees it, even if it did come from a Democrat.

Denney is shopping his ideas to lawmakers before the session, and so far he said he’s received mostly positive feedback.

The secretary’s proposals haven’t received much press yet, but get ready to hear plenty more when lawmakers gather in Boise next month.

In the meantime, contact your lawmaker and tell him residents deserve a more transparent government. Denney’s plans are a good start.

It’s in lawmakers’ best interest to listen to you. Voters are much more likely to trust their elected leaders when they can easily understand who is backing them.

Simply put, it’s good for democracy.

Editorial from the Twin Falls Times-News

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