State must close campaign contribution limit loophole

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

One is a Bible-thumping conservative. The other a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. They and their agendas could hardly be more different from each other.

Democratic challenger John Gregg and Republican incumbent Gov. Mike Pence are locked in a tight and historically significant battle to win Indiana’s gubernatorial election in November.

The outcome will have a dramatic impact on the direction of state policy, taxpayer money, social programs, education, economic development and a host of other concerns affecting Hoosiers’ quality of life and the state’s future.

So it should be highly disconcerting to Hoosiers to know that big money, hidden behind limited liability corporations and political action committees and coming mostly from out of state, is pulling the candidates’ strings and bankrolling their campaigns.

According to an Associated Press article, Pence and Gregg have filled their war chests with, combined, about $18 million, putting their race on course to be one of the most costly in state history. Of about $13 million contributed to their campaigns since Jan. 1, more than $4.5 million, or about 35 percent, has come from contributors masked by LLCs and PACs.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, in most of the country it’s not.

Indiana is one of just 13 states that place no limitations on campaign contributions that come from LLCs and PACs. And Hoosier candidates for the past several elections have taken advantage of largesse from the unnamed to wage their campaigns, meaning the public would have difficulty tracing who is supporting the candidates — and to whom the candidates are accountable.

Indiana law caps campaign contributions from corporations and workers’ unions at $5,000 annually, but such entities can still contribute millions by seeking PAC or LLC shelter, thereby continuing to exert their self-serving influences.

Most of these are controlled by interests outside the state of Indiana. Pence’s largest donation, $1.6 million, came from a Washington-based PAC funded by the Republican Governors Association. Gregg’s campaign has a windfall of about $1.4 million from a combination of six out-of-state labor union PACs and the Democratic Governors Association.

State legislators must work hard and in good faith, with sound public policy in mind, to close this state law loophole that enables out-of-state unions and corporations to stuff the purses of candidates for governor and other offices.