Lee Zurik Investigation: Campaign finance reform measure delayed

A panel of state senators has delayed a vote on a bill that would tighten campaign finance reporting requirements for Louisiana politicians and candidates.

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee deferred action on House Bill 1079 for one week. The committee has scheduled another hearing on the measure next Wednesday, May 28.

HB 1079 would require politicians and candidates to provide more details about their campaign expenditures in their regular reports to the State Ethics Board. FOX 8 has reported on the bill, noting it might curb at least some of the dubious practices revealed in our Louisiana Purchased probe of campaign finance.

Some senators expressed concern Wednesday morning about whether the bill's language adequately spells out how filers must report their expenditures.

One senator, Bob Kostelka (R-Monroe) questioned whether it would ban the practice by many legislators of donating campaign funds for constituent funerals. Bill co-author Rep. Greg Miller (R-Norco) assured Sen. Kostelka that the bill would not ban the practice.

FOX 8 News and our partners at NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune have reported in detail some of the questionable campaign spending practices by lawmakers and other politicians in our Louisiana Purchased series of reports. Among those practices is the expenditure of thousands of dollars on constituent funerals, gifts, tickets to sporting events and other items not typically associated as the costs of campaigning for political office.

Primary bill author Rep. Tim Burns (R-Mandeville) told FOX 8 the measure should force politicians to report with "just enough detail and clarity so the average person, you know, understands what they're doing, understands why they're doing a certain expenditure."

Right now, a politician can write a single word on the campaign finance form - "constituent" - and it basically legitimizes it as a legal expense.

"The law is pretty clear with it," Burns told us. "If it's directly related to political purpose, seeking office or holding office, and it's related to that, then that's [when] I would consider something a campaign expenditure."

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