SPENCER RITCHIE — Changes to Mississippi campaign finance laws affect business community
Lesser-known provisions in the Act are those affecting “political committees.” Included under the state law definition of political committees are political action committees (PACs), campaign committees, clubs, associations, or any other groups of persons or affiliated organizations that receive contributions or spend more than $200.00 in a calendar year in support of a candidate or ballot measure. In Mississippi, as of late 2016, there were nearly 800 such political committees on file with the Mississippi Secretary of State.
Under current law, all such political committees are required to file a statement of organization within ten days of being formed. A political committee is considered to have formed once it has received or spent in excess of $200 in support of a candidate or ballot measure. Political committees are also required to file up to four finance disclosure reports per calendar year. Violations of a political committee’s finance disclosure requirements could result in criminal liability and up to a $3000 fine. A political committee’s finance disclosure obligations do not end until a termination report is filed on behalf of the committee.
The new Act alters these provisions to reduce the time that political committees must file statements of organization from ten days of being formed to forty-eight hours of being formed and authorizes a fine of up to $5,000 for a committee’s failure to do so.
The Act also transfers to the Mississippi Ethics Commission authority previously held by the Mississippi Secretary of State for enforcing finance disclosure requirements, and clarifies the authority of the Ethics Commission to pursue judicial remedies against noncompliant political committees.
Finally, as with officeholders and candidates, the Act requires political committees to itemize all expenditures made using a credit card in their finance disclosure reports.