Dems: Raise contribution limits or let carpetbaggers' buy KY ele - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Dems: Raise contribution limits or let carpetbaggers' buy KY elections

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Even supporters admit it would pump more money into elections, perhaps making a run for office more expensive.

"But it's about whose money," Majority Whip Johnny Bell (D-Glasgow) told the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Monday. "When these carpetbaggers are coming in and buying people - races that had cost $30,000 are now costing $150,000."

Bell has opted not to seek re-election for a sixth term, in which he would face well-financed opposition in a district long-considered a GOP stronghold.

The House committee has approved changes to campaign finance laws that would double the limits of individual and political action committee contributions from $1,000 to $2,000 per candidate per election cycle.

Donation limits to caucus campaigns and state and local political party executive committees would rise from $2,500 to $5,000. Individual and PAC donation limits to candidates and committees would be indexed to inflation and adjusted every odd-numbered year. This would mirror the law for federal elections.

"It's about parity and fairness," House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg), a bill co-sponsor, said. 

"We don't need more money in elections," countered Richard Beliles, chairman of the non-partisan voter advocacy group Common Cause of Kentucky. "We're getting flooded now."

"But this gives us an opportunity to fight back a little bit," Bell said. "We don't need to let folks from Kansas and Texas come in to tell us what to do."

The changes hold special attraction for Democrats, clinging to a 50-46 seat majority in the House. Special elections March 8 will fill four vacated seats for the remainder of the 2016 Session. A Republican sweep would result in a 50-50 tie and cast doubt as to which party would lead the chamber.

"They (outside) interest groups are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the House of Representatives," Rep. Sannie Overly (D-Paris), caucus chairman and the newly-elected chair of Kentucky's Democratic Party, said.

Overly was running mate to former Attorney General Jack Conway's unsuccessful bid for Governor against Matt Bevin.

"We need to give Kentuckians a voice to level the playing field," Overly said.

The measure now goes to the full House. If passed and signed into law, the changes would go into effect for elections after July 15, 2016

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