116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Normally, Cedar Rapids mayoral candidates Amara Andrews and Tiffany O’Donnell would be required to disclose the money they’ve raised and spent for their campaigns on the Thursday before the Nov. 30 runoff election. But this year, that state-imposed deadline falls on Thanksgiving.
So the deadline, under the law, falls to the next business day, which is Monday, Nov. 29 at 4:30 p.m., the day before the runoff. Voters, at least the ones who haven’t voted early, will have little time to assess how campaign bucks might affect their vote. We’ve already seen in this election cycle how the numbers can sometimes uncover inconvenient truths about a campaign. Spending in the final few days of the campaign won’t be included in the filings.
The candidates, of course, are free to release disclosures sooner. But the Andrews campaign is sticking with the Nov. 29 deadline. O’Donnell said Thursday, without a mutual agreement between the candidates to release filings early, her campaign also will release them on Nov. 29. That’s disappointing.
This quirk in the calendar is frustrating. But the whole system of filing deadlines in Iowa are antiquated and fail to provide the timely transparency voters need to make informed decisions. State lawmakers should revise the deadline system for local and state candidates.
Under current law, in cities without a primary election, which is most cities, a candidate for city office doesn’t have to disclose fundraising and spending until five days before the general election. In larger cities such as Cedar Rapids, where campaigns have become costly and candidates raise and spend money for several months, the deadline makes no sense. It also ignores the fact that thousands of voters will cast early ballots before the deadline.
Under current law, statewide and legislative candidates file reports in January, May, July and on Oct. 19 and on Friday before the general election if they meet certain contribution thresholds. And any contributions or spending that happens in the final week before the election isn’t disclosed until January.
Worst of all, in off years, state candidates can raise and spend money for an entire year and are not required to disclose it until the next January. It’s a rule that fails to account for the fact state candidates don’t stop raising money in off years. Iowans deserve to see those numbers and how they might be impacting policymaking, which also doesn’t stop in off years.
With online banking and electronic campaign finance document filing, there’s no reason candidates can’t be required to report more frequently, before early voting begins and right up until Election Day. There’s no sound reason for campaign activity to be hidden from public view in off years.
We’ve heard legislators talk a lot about election integrity. We think that should include candidate integrity. Lawmakers must revamp these outdated disclosure laws.
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