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VOL. 37 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 19, 2013

Casada abandons revival of campaign finance bill

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NASHVILLE  (AP) — The sponsor of a bill seeking to boost the amount of money political groups can give to candidates and to do away with reporting requirements for donations by corporations on Thursday dropped an effort to revive the failed measure.

The bill sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin a day earlier received only 48 votes on the House floor — two short of the constitutional minimum to clear the chamber.

Casada said Thursday morning that he had found enough votes to pass the bill in the House. But the clerk's office confirmed that he would need to gain a two-thirds vote in the committee that sets floor calendars, which included House Speaker Beth Harwell oF Nashville and several other Republican committee chairmen who had either abstained or voted against the measure on its floor vote.

Casada said he was withdrawing the bill in an effort to speed the end of the legislative session.

The bill would have raised the cap on the amount of money that party caucuses can donate to candidates. The limit for statewide elections would jump from $374,300 to $500,000. For state Senate candidates, the limit would increase from $59,900 to $150,000. For the state House or other state or local offices it would increase from $30,000 to $75,000.

The change would have allowed candidates to rely less on contributions from individuals because they could have been bankrolled by the parties.

Current law allows corporations to contribute directly to candidates, but they are treated as political action committees and must disclose the contributions. Under the bill, the contributions would be disclosed only by the candidates, not the corporations.

Opponents said that would eliminate an important way for campaign finance officials to double-check candidates' reports.

Casada argued bill was a way to increase free speech. But several members expressed concerns that the bill would give the perception that the General Assembly was allowing money to influence politics.

Casada on Wednesday dismissed those arguments, stating: "We are not bribable."

The bill was awaiting a full Senate vote when it failed in the House.