This reform is a good first step at ending what many have called “legalized bribery” – the practice of giving to a candidate’s campaign only to see that money used by the candidate for personal reasons. But it doesn’t address rules about “gifts” to elected officials or candidates. That’s fine, because “gifts” are an ethics issue outside the realm of campaign finance; but restrictions on the use of campaign contributions could drive some supporters more toward the “gift” area to help out candidates personally. Mississippi requires lobbyists to disclose certain gifts to elected officials. And government officials are prohibited from using their office “to obtain pecuniary” benefits beyond state compensation. But most states spell out specific rules or prohibitions regarding elected officials receiving gifts from individuals or groups. Mississippi’s law is vague. We should also require gift disclosures so that anything not reported as income, a gift, or a campaign contribution would obviously be more sinister.
The House and Senate couldn’t agree on campaign finance reform in 2015, but this year it was a priority and the Legislature made a good first step toward cleaner government with greater disclosure. But there is more to do.