CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Two Republican lawmakers want to close a loophole in Nevada law that allows some former elected officials to keep campaign cash in anticipation of a possible run at another office years down the road.
Candidates who withdraw or are defeated in an election must dispose of unused campaign contributions by the 15th day of the second month after an election.
But former public office holders are allowed to use unspent contributions in a future election, even if that may be years away, provided they receive at least $100 in campaign contributions. Receiving that nominal sum makes them a candidate under the law, regardless if they've declared candidacy for a particular office.
SB194 sponsored by Sen. Greg Brower and Assembly Pat Hickey, both Reno Republicans, would set a two-year timeframe for a former official to either run for another election or drain the war chests.
It's a response to the hefty sums amassed by former Democratic Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley of Las Vegas. Buckley was termed out and 2010, and left office with about $575,000 in unused campaign contributions.
She briefly considered a 2010 gubernatorial bid but didn't run.
In 2011, she received a $200 campaign contribution from fellow Democrat Sheila Leslie, keeping her status as a candidate intact. Leslie served 12- years in the Assembly and was elected to the Senate in 2010, but resigned midterm when she moved and challenged Brower in last fall's election. She lost by 266 votes.
Campaign finance records show Buckley contributed $8,700 to Leslie's campaign. The sum was a small portion of the $155,000 Buckley gave in 2012 to various candidates, Democratic parties and political action committees.
Brower said his bill, introduced Wednesday, isn't about retaliation, but closing a loophole and making Nevada's campaign laws more transparent. Under the current law, he said, "you don't have to file a declaration of candidacy ... and never close your campaign account."
A similar bill in 2009 passed the Senate 21-0 but died in the Assembly.
That bill, SB210, set a four-year limit for former officials to dispose of cash. It was sponsored by John Lee, a former Democratic senator from North Las Vegas who was defeated in November.
During hearings on that bill in 2009, former longtime GOP Sen. Bill Raggio, now deceased, said the intent of the original campaign finance law was to require candidates to dispose of funds.
"Our intent was only for elected candidates to continue to use money during their term of office or during their next election," Raggio said at the time. "If you did not fit into that category, then you did not have the right to keep the money."
Lee, contacted by telephone Thursday, said he sponsored the bill four years ago to "clean up the image" of elected officials, adding it was not targeted toward a particular lawmaker.
"This was always a cloud over us," he said. "It just needed to be addressed."
Buckley did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment.