House Rejects Raising Campaign Contribution Limits

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In this session’s first real defeat for the Republican leadership, the House just refused to raise contribution limits for state political campaigns. The vote was 48-41—two votes short of the majority needed for passage.

House Speaker Beth Harwell didn’t vote in a surprising failure to support her caucus chairman and the bill’s main sponsor, Franklin's Glen Casada. Thirteen other Republicans voted no, along with all the Democrats.

The bill would have nearly doubled the limit on contributions to state candidates from political parties or party caucuses—from $374,000 to $500,000 for statewide candidates. In addition, it would have lifted the requirement in the law that corporations report donations, and it would have allowed insurance companies to give to campaigns for the first time in Tennessee.

The debate was long and grew testy at times, especially when Chattanooga Rep. JoAnne Favors asserted the new contribution limits would lead to bribery.

“We are not bribeable,” Casada shot back. “Don’t insinuate that someone’s going to be bribed because you are taking a couple of extra thousand dollars more. If you are prone to be character flawed and taking a bribe, you’re going to take it on $50 just like you will $50,000. This is a way to educate your voters about who you are and what you stand for. This is free speech.”

Favors responded: “Our federal prisons are full of people like us who were bribed, and it will happen again.”

Update: Democrats crow in a press release.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — House Democrats were joined by 13 Republicans and one Independent Republican in voting against legislation by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada to change corporate contribution laws. The bill failed 48-41 after nearly an hour of debate.

“The people of Tennessee don’t want this because they know that money corrupts,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. During the debate on the legislation, Chairman Turner implored his Republican colleagues to side with the people and vote against the bill.

HB643 would have nearly tripled the amount of money political parties and caucuses could give to state candidates. It also removed the requirement that corporations register as PACs. Additionally, the bill would have allowed insurance companies to contribute to political candidates.

Rep. JoAnne Favors (D-Chattanooga) warned that allowing insurance companies to give to candidates during our current health care debate would “give the appearance of being unethical.”

Having failed to receive a majority, the bill now moves back to the Calendar and Rules Committee.

Roll call of the vote available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/136545701/Roll-Call-on-HB643-by-Casada

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