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December 5, 2022

Tennessee Senate passes amended campaign finance reporting bill

Tennessee’s Senate passed a bill on Thursday that could require more reporting requirements for political action committees (PAC), candidates and some nonprofits.

An amended Senate Bill 1005 could require any PAC registering after July 1 to include a name and address from an ID for its officers if it becomes law.

“If you are going to participate in the process, voters need to know who you are and what you’re doing,” said Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin. “… Right now, it’s difficult to figure out who is responsible for a PAC.”

The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee, also would require expenses and contributions to be reported for any local candidate with contributions or expenses $1,000 or higher.

“It is important to get good laws on the books,” said Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville. “It’s important we have good systems to make those laws as effective as they can be.

“This inevitably gets connected to recent news but we should really separate those two.”

Yarbro was referring to an FBI inquiry into a political mailer scheme with former Tennessee Speaker of the House Glen Casada and his former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren and now former Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, who resigned in March after being charged.

Casada and Cothren have not been charged.

The bill would require all contributions and extensions to be reported by state candidates, replacing the current $100 requirement.

Those reports would be posted to the state’s campaign transparency website.

A companion house bill does not have the same PAC registration requirements. House Bill 1201 will next be heard in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee. If the two bodies pass differing bills and can’t reach an agreement, a conference committee on the topic will be created.

The senate bill was amended on Thursday to only require a 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5) or 501(c)(6) to report expenditures if the nonprofit spends more than $5,000 on communications that include the name or image of a candidate in the final 60 days before an election.

Haile said that donors would not need to be revealed and that lobbyists do not count as expenditures. When asked if legislative report cards on a topic are allowed, Haile clarified.

“They are allowed, but if they do it within 60 days, they have to report the expenditure to the Bureau of Ethics and Finance,” Haile said.

This article was originally posted on Tennessee Senate passes amended campaign finance reporting bill