A state legislative committee is working on a bill draft that clarifies reporting requirements for people who donate to political campaigns in Wyoming.
The proposal was designed to address an issue that arose in Fremont County after a small, informal group of people decided to contribute to a political campaign.
Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese said the group technically should have filed as a political action committee (PAC), but they weren’t able to complete the process because the state’s electronic filing system requires PACs to identify formal officers, like chairs and treasurers.
“I just want to make it so that they can file,” Freese told the Wyoming Legislature’s Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee last week. “So I’m glad to see that we’re proceeding in some direction.”
Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, agreed that “disclosure was a problem in that previous instance because (the local group) didn’t have those officers, so they said they didn’t have to disclose.”
But “it’s not the officers that are important,” he added – “it’s the disclosure that’s important.”
“The point in this situation (was), they never formed a PAC, but they did spend funds, against Wyoming law,” Case said. “People need to know that when they do this, they come under Wyoming law, (and they) must form a PAC.”
The bill draft the committee considered last week would expand the definition of “organization” in Wyoming Statute 22-25-101 to include “any group of two or more persons (that) jointly expends funds totaling … more than $1,000, even if the expenditure of pooled funds is made by one individual.”
“This is catching the people that do the PAC stuff without creating a PAC,” Case explained.
The draft lists two exemptions for the newly defined groups, who don’t have to file as PACS if:
-every member is “disclosed on the electioneering communications or with the independent expenditures,” or
-if “all members of the group are relatives.”
Freese questioned the second exemption, which she said creates a “loophole” in the rules, allowing relatives of political candidates to raise money from various sources and donate it themselves so the outside expenditures don’t have to be reported.
“(They) could do that, and then you would never know … where the money’s coming from,” Freese said. “That was the whole point of this.”
The committee later removed the family exemption from the bill, then voted to carry the draft forward to their next meeting, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 20 in Cheyenne.