Campaign finance reporting system angers lawmakers

ByShannon J. Cortes

Aug 25, 2022

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Lawmakers held several committee meetings Thursday at the Kentucky State Fair, separate from the ongoing special session focusing on eastern Kentucky flood relief, and the meetings included an airing of grievances about the filing system for campaign finance reports.

What do you want to know

  • Lawmakers held several committee meetings at the Kentucky State Fair on Thursday
  • The meetings were separate from the ongoing special session dealing with flood relief in Eastern Kentucky
  • Reports on campaign finance, election security and agriculture were among the topics discussed at Thursday’s committee meetings.

In 2019, Sen. Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) introduced a bill requiring campaign financial reports to be filed online, hoping to make campaigns more transparent.

“It was a complete failure,” he said. “And it’s embarrassing to me, as the sponsor of the bill, that the implementation of the bill has been so sloppy.”

Thayer took aim at Kentucky Interactive, the agency in charge of revamping the campaign finance system.

He said online filing is difficult to use, plagued with problems, and the data isn’t even entirely accurate. He wasn’t the only lawmaker to have trouble with this.

“Certainly if I was in the general public, I wouldn’t have any faith in the system,” said Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights).

John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said they also had issues on their end.

“I want you to know that we keep trying. We keep trying to improve it,” he said. “It’s getting better, slowly but surely I think, but I wonder if at some point we’ll reach the limits of what it can be. I think it was built on bad foundations.

So what can we do? Thayer floated the idea of ​​going back to paper documents for the 2023 election, but Steffen said it wasn’t that easy since the old system was gone.

“Could we go back to paper? Yes, but I think that would be even more damaging to disclosure and more burdensome for everyone involved,” he said.

Several other committees met at the state fair, including the Agriculture Committee, where Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told lawmakers that bourbon tourism was helping to offset some downtown problems.

“So it’s not a flash in the pan,” he said. “I think we’re at the beginning of what’s going to be decades and decades in terms of people enjoying bourbon and local food, so it’s definitely good for the agricultural sector of our economy.”

None of the meetings at the Kentucky State Fair had anything to do with the ongoing special session for eastern Kentucky flood relief.

Lawmakers returned to Frankfurt for procedural steps late Thursday afternoon, with final passage of that bill expected Friday.