Show us the money

Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller on Monday released a statement to political entities that the new election-finance document will be due next week.

“Secretary of State Dean Heller is reminding all candidates, incumbents, Committees for Political Action (PACs), Ballot Advocacy Groups (BAGs) and political parties that annual reporting of their contributions and expenses is now required. The Annual Contributions and Expenses Report covering 2003 is due no later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 15, 2004 in the proper filing officer’s office. Filers are required to use the new universal form mandated by the 2003 Legislature that incorporates the Disposition of Unspent Contributions Report, Contributions in Excess of $10,000 Report, and the previous C&E Report form into one document.”

That paragraph pretty much covers the information Heller needed to impart. But with the release of the letter, his office went beyond that, saying it was unfortunate that the 2003 Legislature did not enact reporting changes, and that the information on the new form still falls far short of providing meaningful disclosure or a comprehensive accounting of the money that candidates have received and spent.

“Legislators say they are for full disclosure, but somehow the forms never meet the basic requirements any accountant would insist upon, such as a beginning and ending balance,” Heller said in the release.

“With that in mind, I am sending a letter to elected officials asking them to voluntarily include this information so the public and media will have access to complete and accurate information on the sources and amounts of their campaign contributions and how they spent that money. I hope all candidates and incumbents, especially members of the Legislature, will comply with this request in the true spirit of open government and full disclosure.”

The Reno News & Review would like to second this notion and encourages that candidates honestly, comprehensively and accurately publicize the information the public needs in order to make informed decisions about who to vote for.

It’s disgusting that in this day and age of voter disdain for the political process, some elected officials, like those in the Nevada Legislature, refused to step up to the plate and require full disclosure on their own part and that of future political hopefuls.

The utter failure of Nevada’s reporting laws and the lack of real punishments for those who violate the law was shown in high relief last election when many politicians simply refused to complete the forms because they thought their personal interpretation of state law superseded the legal interpretation of campaign laws.

Even before that, former Reno City Councilwoman Sherrie Doyle was able to get off with a slap on the wrist, despite having taken nearly $40,000 in personal and campaign loans and contributions from Beth Miramon. Those “loans,” according to Washoe County grand jury documents, were “forgiven” by Miramon.

It is difficult not to arrive at the conclusion, after seeing an elected official receive nearly four times the legal amount from a single contributor with little consequence, that our campaign finance-reporting laws are toothless and in need of repair.