Delaware governor signs campaign finance reform bills into law

(file/NewsWorks)

(file/NewsWorks)

Gov. Jack Markell signed a package of several bills that strengthen Delaware’s campaign finance laws and give new powers to the state’s Public Integrity Commission.

Under House Bill 301, an individual who makes a political contribution from a joint bank account will have to attribute the name of the donor. Similarly, Senate Bill 186 requires LLCs and corporations that donate more than $100 to disclose the name and address of one “responsible party” who exercises control over the entity.

Reforming the state’s election laws became a top priority for lawmakers earlier this year following a report by the Election Law Task Force and former Chief Justice Norman E. Veasey.

“This will help strip away some of the mystery from who’s paying for political campaigns by giving voters more information about the groups providing financial support,” said Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East. “It also will clear up questions for donors about how contributions need to be recorded in finance reports.”

Markell also signed Senate Bill 187, which allows political committees to donate prohibited contributions to certain charitable organizations.

“Allowing candidates to donate contributions that may have been made in error or are illegal to charity is a better alternative than, in some cases, returning that money to a donor,” said Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West, sponsor of SB 187. “With this law, we can use those contributions to help our senior citizens, children and families of our National Guard in times of need.”

House Bill 300 will protect “whistleblowers,” i.e. employees who report violations of campaign finance laws.

The governor’s signature will also give new powers to The Public Integrity Commission through four new bills.

Under House Bill 307, the commission is now authorized to report active candidates for state office who fail to file their financial disclosure reports in a timely matter to the state election commissioner.

House Bill 303 will clarify the electronic verification process required for Lobbyist’s Employer Authorization forms, House Bill 304 will mandate electronic filing of financial disclosure reports and House Bill 306 will establish a fee for lobbyists who fail to file their quarterly expense reports in a timely manner.

“We must always look to improve our laws to strengthen the public’s confidence in the political process,” Markell said. “That work is never done, but we have made important progress in building on our efforts to increase transparency around campaign donations, while strengthening requirements for political candidates and lobbyists to disclose financial reports to the public. All of these efforts will help Delawareans better access information about their elected officials and the individuals and organizations that support them.”

Last month, the governor signed House Bill 302, which consolidates the three county boards of election into one board of elections. It also requires the state board of election commissioner to establish a way for the public to anonymously submit reports of campaign finance law violations.

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