The Alabama Legislature has again tried to tighten up the state’s campaign finance law, following up on earlier efforts that haven’t worked as planned. The Fair Campaign Practices Act, on the books since 1988, has been criticized for lacking teeth and a designated authority for enforcement. With a bill that passed during the regular session, lawmakers gave the state Ethics Commission authority to investigate violations of the act, among other changes. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the bill, based mostly on recommendations from a study committee, “will bring a lot more transparency and accountability to our electoral system.”
The new law clarifies that officials can spend campaign funds on legal defense fees in criminal cases, something that officials were already doing under the guidance of an attorney general’s opinion.
Republicans have amended the campaign finance law several times since winning control of the Legislature in 2010.
They have required candidates to file reports electronically, lifted the $500 cap on campaign donations by corporations and banned transfers of money between political action committees, an old trick to hide the source of the money.