Lawmakers push for tighter campaign finance laws

(UPDATED, 3:14 p.m., to correct the proposed fines.)

Some lawmakers say the state needs to crack down on politicians who fail to file timely campaign finance reports.

The issue came up during a legislative committee Monday — and several candidates missed filing deadlines this year. That list of candidates includes state superintendent Sherri Ybarra.

“If you want to be a public servant, you need to be aware of the rules and the filing date,” said state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, according to a report from Kimberlee Kruesi of the Associated Press. “It needs to be cut and dry.”

State Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston

Lodge co-chairs a legislative interim committee studying Idaho’s campaign finance laws. On Monday, the committee agreed to two changes in the law, Kruesi reported. If the 2019 Legislature agrees to the changes, candidates who miss a filing deadline would face automatic fines: $50 a day for the first five days, $250 a day after that.

The issue of late filings — and fines — surfaced a few weeks after the May 15 primary elections.

Ybarra and lieutenant governor’s nominee Janice McGeachin both missed the state’s June 15 deadline for filing campaign finance reports. Ybarra filed her report four days late.

Under the current law, candidates face fines of up to $50 a day for missing a filing deadline. However, the law also gives the secretary of state wide latitude to waive the fine.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney did just that earlier this summer — at least when it came to Ybarra and McGeachin, two fellow Republicans. However, Denney levied a $400 fine against Alanna Brooks, a Democratic legislative candidate from North Idaho.

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