Transparency vital in politics

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Americans have a right, as the Supreme Court has ruled, to express themselves about politics by donating money to candidates and causes. But as politics involves bigger and bigger money from all sides of the idealogical spectrum, we also ought to have some idea of who is trying to influence our votes.

Both Republican and Democrat leaders in the West Virginia Legislature say they agree with that. If so, they should do something about a campaign finance bill that was amended during the wee hours Sunday night.

Senate Bill 541 would align state law with federal limits on campaign contributions. It would increase the current limit of $1,000 for donations to candidates each election cycle to $2,700.

Last week, a welcome addition was made to the bill. It was intended to expand requirements that political contributions be reported to the Secretary of State’s office.

But on Sunday night, members of the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee agreed to remove that provision. One committee member said the decision was a bipartisan one.

That is easy to believe. Both Democrats and Republicans have benefited from much higher spending by supporters during the past few years.

But removing the transparency provision makes a bad bill out of what could have been a reasonable updating of campaign finance rules. Both Democrat and Republican leaders in the Legislature should insist the reporting amendment be put back into the bill – so West Virginians will not be tempted to ask what the politicians are trying to hide.

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