A bill intended to close a loophole in state campaign finance laws, created by a federal court decision last year, has been introduced in the S.C. Senate.
The bill would rewrite state campaign finance laws to once again impose limits on contributions to political action committees, education groups and other third-party groups. In September, a judge ruled that state law, requiring any group spending at least $500 influence an election must register with the state, violated the U.S. Constitution.
The new bill would define candidate, non-candidate and ballot measure committees as groups whose major purpose is to support or oppose a candidate's election or support or oppose a ballot measure. The bill also creates a fourth category, an independent expenditure committee, which would be any group that spends at least $5,000 to support or oppose the nomination or election of a candidate.
State Ethics Commission officials, out of the office this week, were not available to comment.
Since the court ruling, donors have used the loophole a handful of times to give more than previously was allowed.
Last fall, for example, the state Republican Party collected several donations that exceeded the previous $3,500 limit, giving $49,500 to then-Superintendent of Education candidate Mick Zais and $25,000 to then-gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. Both won.
The Republican Governors Association also took advantage of the new rules to use a $125,000 donation from cigarette-maker Reynolds American to buy TV ads criticizing Haley's Democratic opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.