Election changes may affect Georgia fundraising ban

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 By Aaron Gould Sheinin and Kristina Torres - The…

Georgia (Sep 3, 2013) — Posted: 12:00 a.m. Monday, Sept. 2, 2013


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By Aaron Gould Sheinin and Kristina Torres - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A fundraising ban during the legislative session may be broadened or even lifted in the wake of Georgia’s shift to a May 20 federal primary next year, with changes also possible to required campaign disclosures.

Why? The ban exempts challengers who, starting March 3, could benefit from an earlier-than-ever qualifying period to grab cash weeks ahead of incumbents who have name recognition but want more dollars in the bank. …

The move would carry risk for legislators. Any changes could anger voters who helped push through this year’s historic ethics rules limiting the influence of special interests in the state Legislature.

The shift to May 20 came with the acquiescence of state officials, who had been ordered by a federal judge to give overseas voters more time to return their ballots. The regular state elections calendar for local races was left unaltered and is now about two months behind. Not for long.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said he expects nearly unanimous support from lawmakers for moving the state primaries up to May 20, too. And he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he supported “having a vigorous discussion” about the ban because, with the changes to the elections calendar, “the whole landscape changes.”

State law says no elected state official — including legislators, the governor and others who face statewide election — may raise money while the General Assembly is in session starting in January. That includes legislators running for Congress.

In normal years, that has led to a rush of fundraising by incumbents immediately before and immediately after the session, which lasts up to 40 non-consecutive days. Moving state primaries from July to May 20 would severely limit incumbents’ time to solicit contributions.

That’s because legislators sometimes finish the session in mid-to-late March, but have worked as long as late April. In 2010, Ralston’s first session as speaker, lawmakers didn’t finish work until April 29.

Ralston would not rule out also extending the ban on fundraising to challengers. …  …..

Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political scientist and former GOP consultant, acknowledged the change in calendar will be a “culture shock” for state politics.

But, he said, lawmakers should be careful because if they move to lift the ban, they risk angering voters.

“I’m sure most Georgia voters would rather the prohibition on fundraising during session remain in place,” said Swint, who is also on the board of the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia. 




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