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My Response to House Bill No. 2244 aka the “Sean Tevis Bill”
On Wednesday, February 4, 2009, Representative Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) introduced House Bill No. 2244. It is being referred to as the “Sean Tevis Bill”.
This bill would require candidates to file a public report with your full name and your home address on it if you donate less than $50 to a political campaign. Currently, if you donate $49.99 or less, your personal information is not required to be reported.
For example, you can donate $1 right now and not have to worry about your personal information appearing on a list of people who give money. After this bill passes, you may, or you may not, have your personal information reported and you will have no idea if it will be reported or not.
It would appear at first glance that the purpose of this bill is to increase government transparency. What makes this bill unusual, however, is that it would only apply if the candidate you support raises more than $1,000 in other small donations. That’s an odd provision. Why are some small donations not worth reporting and others are?
Maybe it’s because in 2008, there was only been one candidate to raise more than $1,000 in small donations. Me. Representative Schwab has written a bill not to increase government transparency, but to target me or any other future candidate who tries to avoid taking lobbyist money by asking for small donations.
Why We Have Campaign Finance Reporting Laws
Our campaign finance laws are meant primarily so that the public can know what persons or organizations might be attempting to purchase access or influence with our politicians.
For instance, Monsanto Corporation, a maker of fertilizers and chemicals, gave Representative Schwab $250 five days before the election in November. We deserve to know about this because he may feel indebted to Monsanto and introduce legislation to unfairly favor their profit interests over public health. If he introduces a House Bill to loosen regulations about what chemicals may be used on Kansas farms we now know that he may be self-serving and paying back his benefactors.
Reporting the names and addresses of these large amount donors is a way for us to measure a politician’s credibility on an issue.
Why Haven’t Candidates Been Required to Report Small Donations Before?
There are three reasons:
1) No Indebtedness
You give $1 to a candidate. It’s a pretty safe bet that they won’t feel indebted to you. If you give them $100, they might. You give a candidate $1,000 they will probably drop everything to take your call. Money helps win elections and candidates are always looking for more, sadly. Reporting the name and address of someone donating $1 does not address the reasons why we established campaign finance reporting laws. Reporting the name and address of someone donating $1,000 does.
Right now, you can donate $1 to a campaign and be confident that your name and address won’t appear on a donor list somewhere. Some people are very private. These people want to support candidates that they believe in, but they don’t want to have their names out there for marketers, scam artists, or for several personal reasons. One woman donated $49.99 to my campaign, noting that she didn’t want an ex-boyfriend to be able to find her. I thanked her and told her that her privacy would be protected. The $50 threshold allowed her to participate more actively in the direction of our state without fear of upsetting her personal life.
3) It Would Be More Work
All politicians have been candidates who have run for office. Generally, they don’t like to more work for themselves, especially if there is no benefit to them or the public.
It’s this third reason that I believe that Representative Schwab put in the $1,000 provision into his bill. He doesn’t want to fill out more paperwork himself.
The $1,000 threshold creates an unequal protection of privacy.
If you donate $1 to a candidate, you can expect that your personal information will remain private. If that candidate, however, crosses the arbitrary $1,000 threshold, which is beyond your control, then suddenly your reasonable expectation of privacy that other small donors enjoy is stripped from you.
• John gives $1 to Candidate A
• Mary gives $1 to Candidate B
• Candidate A *does not* raise more than $1,000 in small donations.
• Candidate B becomes very popular and she raises more than $1,000 in small donations.
The effect of this is that:
John’s personal information is safe.
Mary’s personal information is not safe.
Why should Mary be stripped of the same opportunity for personal privacy that John enjoys?
I strongly encourage any movement to make our government more transparent, our politicians more accountable, and our laws less susceptible to the influence of wealthy interest groups. This bill does none of that.
I challenge the Kansas Legislature to remove the arbitrary $1,000 threshold in House Bill No. 2244 that selectively and unequally punishes citizens. All candidates must report the same information for the same levels of donations.