Assemblyman Jim Hayes, R-Amherst, has introduced legislation that would require full disclosure of all campaign contributions -- no matter how small.
"By requiring full disclosure, candidates for public office will be required to ensure that all campaign contributions, regardless of the amount, are fully open to public scrutiny," Hayes said.
The assemblyman introduced the bill in response to a recent report in The Buffalo News that found large amounts of money raised in suburban town races skirted laws on reporting campaign contributions and could not be connected to specific contributors.
In some cases, political committees did not identify the contributors of as much as 70 or 80 percent of the money collected. And in 1999, about 50 percent of all money raised for suburban Erie County contests spending $10,000 or more could not be connected to specific contributors.
The News found that some political committees evade laws requiring all contributions $100 and over to be itemized by routinely holding $99 fund-raisers.
At the same time, The News found, many candidates rely on $25-a-person-type campaign fund-raisers -- chicken barbecues and clambake-style events -- to raise much of their money.
Hayes' bill would require political committees to disclose where every cent of money contributed comes from. It is based on a similar law in Michigan.
Hayes, a Republican in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, acknowledged his bill has virtually no chance of passing without support from the Democratic majority. He said he has circulated his bill to Republican and Democratic Assembly members in the Western New York delegation.
So far, Hayes is getting little Democratic support.
In fact, Assemblyman Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, said if Hayes was serious about campaign reform, the Republican assemblyman would have joined Democrats last week in supporting a campaign-reform package put forward by the Democratic leadership.
The measure, Tokasz said, did not require itemizing all contributions but would, among other things, make bundling more difficult. Bundling is when, for example, a single corporation purchases multiple tickets under $100 for various employees.
Tokasz added that Hayes' bill is too narrow and appears to target a practice occurring generally with town-level candidates. Campaign finance reform, Tokasz said, needs to be broad, focusing on statewide or national offices as well.
Tokasz cited the Democratic reform bill Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced last week that creates a voluntary public campaign financing system and bans Albany fund-raisers during the legislative session. That bill, however, has little Republican support, partly because it doesn't address GOP concerns over money from organized labor.