Can Pa. finally pass real campaign finance reform? These Philadelphia Dems think so

Produced By: - June 27, 2023 12:32 pm

Proposals to reform Pennsylvania’s nearly non-existent campaign finance laws have come and gone with each legislative session. But two Philadelphia Democrats said Tuesday that they believe the time is finally right to overhaul a system they compared to the “Wild West.”

Those lawmakers, Reps. Jared Solomon and Malcolm Kenyatta, pointed to a spirit of bipartisanship that’s pervaded the lower chamber during the current legislative session. Most of the bills the House has passed have been bipartisan, and proposals by the chamber’s slender Republican minority have been among them, they said.

“This is about all of us saying, with a unified voice, that we want to put Pennsylvania first,” Kenyatta, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for state auditor general in 2024, said during a Capitol news conference. “This is about all Pennsylvanians being able to trust in the process.”

On Tuesday, the two lawmakers highlighted a suite of reform proposals they say are intended to restore public trust in the system, broadly, and the 253-member General Assembly, more specifically. 

They include an independent, citizen-led redistricting commission; hard caps on campaign contributions, more transparency on who’s writing the checks, and efforts to clamp down on “dark money” donors; increased transparency on House lawmakers’s expenses, requiring lawmakers who run afoul of the law to resign upon their conviction, and clawback provisions for the billions of dollars in loans and grants the state awards annually.

The proposals, which have been introduced throughout this year, are now before the House’s State Government Committee. Because it deals with its inner workings, the proposal on House members’ expenses is now before the chamber’s Rules Committee.

“The fastest-growing party in Pennsylvania right now is none of the above,” Solomon said. “And one of the main reasons is that people are tired of the corrupting influence of money in our politics.”

Kenyatta and Solomon said they want to cap campaign contributions at $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for political action committees. Under current law, individuals and PACs can give as much as they want. Only direct corporate contributions are banned.

With that much money flying around during the average campaign cycle, voters have every reason to wonder what deep-pocketed donors are getting in return for their support, the lawmakers said.

“We need to make it clear we are working for you — and we’re not just saying, we’re showing it,” Kenyatta said.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.


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