UPDATE: A couple of folks reminded me of the 2009 battle over a similar provision, which closes the loop because it was an attempt by Republicans to try to affect then-Speaker Barbara Buckley's potential gubernatorial run. The measure flew out of the Senate (thanks to Sir Bill of Reno) but was entombed in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. As I say below, all politics is personal. Here are some hearing minutes and I have attached some more above.
This is the Legislature -- or any legislature -- in a nutshell:
A worthwhile cause -- closing a campaign finance loophole -- nevertheless has partisan tinges (at least), political motivations (barely hidden) and egos exposed (so obviously).
Two news releases arrived this afternoon, one declaring a bipartisan approach to campaign finance reform, the other declaring a senator had introduced a new bill. The releases were about the same measure, SB 194 , which would not allow politicians to horde campaign contributions long after they have left office.
The first release came from Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey,. who talked a lot about campaign finance reform last year. It was headlined: "Hickey and Brower Introduce Bipartisan Campaign Reform Bill."
That's a reference to state Sen. Greg Brower.
The first thing I notice, of course, is that both of these men are....Republicans.
No Democratic co-sponsors? Bipartisan? Really?
But this just gets better (or worse).
The Assembly minority leader's release says, "Hickey first became aware of the issue back in 2009, when he realized that Nevada ex-officials were sometimes maintaining big campaign funds despite not running for office. The Hickey-Brower bill would require that a person who receives an excess of $100 to dispose of all contributions after being inactive for two years."
2009, eh? Maybe so.
But what this legislation is really all about has an obviously partisan derivation: Former Speaker Barbara Buckley holding onto a lot of money and using part of it last year to try to beat....Brower.
Doesn't mean it's not a good idea -- it is. But this is not the product of some do-gooder epiphany, I assure you.
Fifteen minutes later, the second release arrived from....Brower. Its headline was so telling: "Brower introduces campaign finance reform legislation."
Well, yes, it is a Senate bill. But no mention of Hickey, who graciously had given Brower credit in his caucus release? How rude.
In his release, Brower said "this past electiion cycle revealed that at least one former legislator maintained more than $500,000 in campaign funds despite having been out of office for mroe than two years and not running for any other office."
Who could he be talking about? Maybe the former speaker who used some of her money to try to boost Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, who nearly defeated Brower?
No, not her. Couldn't be.
I'm not suggesting that is Brower's motivation for this legislation -- I would never do such a thing. But, hypothetically, if the late Bill Raggio, whose seat Brower now occupies, were to have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, do you think Brower would have rejected any of Sir Bill's leftover money out of principle?
What's particularly sad about this is that it is a long overdue piece of reform that Hickey and Brower, especially, have made needlessly partisan by making it about Buckley, still a beloved figure in Democratic ranks. It would be outrageous, as hard as campaign finance bills are to pass in any enviornment, if this legislation were lost as Democrats petulantly killed it because of the apparent motivation and target.
Might that happen? Oh, my, yes.
Egos and pettiness are not Republican provinces. And in the end, all politics -- or at least most politics -- is personal.