Politics & Government

Senator's bill would place limits on political action groups

In the wake of controversy sparked by a political consulting firm that created dozens of political action committees in the last election cycle, a Democratic senator plans to introduce a bill that would reign in the proliferation of such groups.

Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, said he’s in the process of drafting a bill that would prohibit one group from creating more than two committees at a time, and would require them to specifically state their intent. Pridemore said he also wants to prohibit one political action committee from funding another, which, he says, creates a “shell game.”

He noted the recent case of Moxie Media, which created 40 different PACs in the last election cycle and is currently being sued by the attorney general over alleged violations of the state’s campaign finance disclosure law during a primary election attack on a Democratic state senator.

“Moxie Media is obviously a showcase example, but it’s by no means the only one,” Pridemore said.

Currently, there is no limit on how many political action committees can be created by one group, and no restrictions on committees moving money to another committee. All of it can be traced on the state Public Disclosure Commission website, but Pridemore says that it’s not always easily apparent to voters where the money is coming from.

“We want to maximize trust in the system, and the best way we get trust in the system is disclosure,” he said. Pridemore said that he plans to unveil his bill before the end of the month.

Pridemore was recently named chairman for the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Affairs and Elections Committee. Earlier this week, the committee held a work session on campaign finance issues.

At that hearing, officials from the Public Disclosure Commission gave an overview of money spent in the past election, which saw a record amount of money, more than $60 million, spent on several initiative measures on the November ballot.

Pridemore said during the hearing that while there will always be a debate on whether large amounts of money in the election system is good or bad, “the issue that all of us should be united on, regardless of party or regardless of political ideology, is disclosure — awareness of who’s got the money and how it’s being used to influence our system.”

Sen. Pam Roach, the ranking Republican on the committee, said that she’s willing to work with Pridemore and others to strengthen the state’s disclosure and transparency laws.