PAR: Fix campaign finance rules

by Walter Pierce

"Louisiana should strive for a campaign finance reporting and enforcement system that promotes compliance, sets a high ethical standard and provides clear procedures that are practical, consistent and transparent."

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, a Baton Rouge-based non-partisan, good government group, has released an analysis of Louisiana's campaign finance laws. The gist: there are currently too many opportunities for abuse of the poorly crafted rules.

PAR's analysis comes on the heels of a joint investigative report by The Times-Picayune and WVUE News in February:

After years of resisting requests to clarify what Louisiana politicians can and can't do with campaign money, the Legislature in 2013 tasked a group of lawmakers with proposing stricter campaign expense rules. But that committee put on the job includes politicians who have themselves spent thousands of dollars on tickets, meals and other perks the current law allows - and the group missed its deadline for issuing recommendations.

The 20 members of the joint House and Senate Governmental Affairs Committee collectively shelled out more than $630,000 in campaign cash between 2009 and 2012 for expenses that included golf tournaments, meals, travel expenses and tickets to LSU football games, Essence Music Festival and other events, a review by | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News found.

Among PAR's recommendations for cleaning up the campaign finance system in Louisiana:

? Tighten campaign finance laws to make them restrictive in how politicians use them.

? Lay out clearly for elected officials what they can and cannot use their war chests on.

? Raise the reporting standard so that elected officials are accounting in detail on what they're spending campaign funds.

? Stop double dipping, that is, allowing elected officials to use their campaign funds for normal legislative travel and lodging requirements and then pocketing the per diem paid to them at taxpayers' expense to defray those very same costs.

Read the full PAR analysis here.

For the full Times-Pic investigative series, "Louisiana Purchased," click here.