The Gazette’s August 2 editorial about revisions to Iowa’s campaign finance disclosure system highlighted one problem but overlooked another.
In non-election years, campaigns can and do move money from one campaign fund to another candidate’s fund without being detected. This happens with the use of an intermediary such as a political party. Funds from the first campaign are earmarked for another campaign. The intermediary accepts both the funds and the earmark. Then it passes the funds to a second campaign. Both campaigns report the donation in the non-election year while the intermediary reports the receipt of the donation and it’s disbursement in January of the following year.
The problem not mentioned is the fact that the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is woefully underfunded for the work it is supposed to do. Years ago, the board underwent budget cuts and staff reductions that crippled its ability to do outreach and training as well as making deep dives into financial records. Except for dealing with the most blatant and egregious campaign violations, the board focuses on fining late filers, a practice that already discourages volunteers from being campaign treasurers.
The Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board needs to be funded for the work it is charged to do. Changing disclosure requirements without adequately funding the board will only weaken oversight further and lead to backlogs.