Independent Campaign Spending to Face Scrutiny
Legislators may study adding dislcosure requirements for outside groups
Legislators could act next year to require organizations which wade into election campaigns independently of the candidates to disclose their activities.
Independent expenditures have exploded since a 2010 Supreme Court decision made it easier for otherwise nonpolitical groups to advertise for or against candidates.
Senate Elections Chairman Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) says she was blindsided to discover Indiana doesn't require financial disclosure from those groups. She notes 15 states already have disclosure requirements, and says a legislative study committee is likely to request data from those states this summer.
Currently, independent groups have no requirement to disclose how much they've spent or on what, nor the source of their funding. House Elections Chairman Milo Smith (R-Columbus) says Indiana repealed a disclosure requirement in the late '90s as part of a broader set of changes. He says it doesn't make any sense to make public the names of direct campaign donors but not people who donate to outside groups.
A Montana-based watchdog group, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, last week gave all but nine states either an "A" or "F" grade for the amount of disclosure they require from independent groups. Indiana was one of 26 states receiving a failing grade -- and one of six to miss all six of the group's benchmarks for reporting the stances and targeted candidates of independent groups.