Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Comments on the Proposed New Campaign Disclosure Regulations

Delaware has changed the law regarding campaign finance disclosure.  The Commissioner of Elections, Elaine Manlove, has been traveling the state today soliciting comments before finalizing those regulations.  My concerns focused on some new sign disclosure requirements.  As I read the law, Ms Manlove has some discretion on how this portion of the law is implemented.  See Title 15, Chapter 80, Section 8021 (c).  There were about a dozen people present at the Kent County hearing. Here is a transcript of my remarks.

My name is Jess McVay.  I was the Libertarian Party candidate for governor in the last election.  I would like to express some concerns about the new regulations in regards to the new requirements for signs. 
Before I begin to address what I consider to be some unreasonable specifics and dubious benefits of the proposed rules, I'd like to ask a few questions to clarify your intentions.  On the Commissioner of Elections website, in the Frequently Asked Questions section is the following entry:

"Do we have to put the words "Paid for by Committee or Person's name" on our campaign signs or radio ads?

The Delaware Attorney General has ruled that identifying the purchaser on campaign materials is no longer required as a result of court cases involving the right to "pure political speech".

Radio ads are governed by the Federal Communication Commission. For rules governing these ads you may contact the radio station where you want to purchase advertising."

So what has changed that you now mandate the disclosure when previously, you specifically stated that legal opinion had rendered that requirement void?

Another question:  You clearly intend signs to be included in these regulations, and not just billboards as you refer to a category between 8-1/2" x 11" and 24" x 36".  And yet you stipulate that the rules apply only to advertisements with a fair market value of $500 or more.  Am I missing something?  What kind of yard sign/roadside sign costs more than $500.  Are you demanding that we purchase in smaller quantities so as to keep the total under $500?  What exactly is your intention here?

What about signs from previous campaigns?  Must we now discard them as obsolete?  That seems an unreasonable burden to place on repeat candidates who wish to re use signs.  I include not just incumbents, but also persistent challengers in this category.  I own 400 6" x 18" Corplast signs that say on them.  Must I throw them away, or somehow add your new disclosure?

What about homemade signs?  It's a bit of an effort to cut out a template that says McVay for Governor, but it can be done in about an hour, and the short message allows for a large font and a legible sign, even if homemade.  Having to add "Paid for by Committee to Elect Jess McVay" renders the concept of a homemade sign a little more challenging if not totally out of the question.  That puts a burden on candidates of moderate means.  I believe that is an unreasonable burden.

And what of practicality?  An 18" x 24" sign that says McVay for Governor will be easily readable at a distance, say by a driver on the road.  The 12 point font disclosure will not be readable.  Why require it?  Make that a moving car, and we're lucky if the main message will get it's point across.  Furthermore, is the information useful.  Doe's anybody really care who erected or paid for the sign?  Candidate committee or PAC?  I would think the burden of showing a benefit for the new rules lies with you.  Please tell me who benefits?  It strikes me as one more hoop for a candidate to jump through to make the process more confusing so less people will participate.  For that reason, and the difficulty of producing the homemade signs, I'd say it disproportionately disadvantages candidates from smaller parties or challengers within the major parties.  That is anti democratic.  If you're not rich, or don't have rich donors, don't participate in the process.  That's not a good message.

The bottom line is, I don't see a need for this added disclosure.  On written materials or radio and TV ads, the burden is minimal, but still unnecessary.  But for signage, I fail to see any practical benefit at all, and the new rules will act to disenfranchise many would be candidates.

Thank you.

Jess McVay