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Political contribution, expense reports due

Candidates, incumbents, political action committees, advocacy groups and political parties have until Jan. 15 to file their annual contribution and expense reports with Secretary of State Dean Heller’s office for all contributions and expenses during 2003.

But Heller wants those candidates and groups to go one step farther than the law requires in the name of full disclosure.

“Legislators say they are for full disclosure, but somehow the forms never meet the basic requirements any accountant would insist upon, such as a beginning and ending balance,” he said.

Those requirements were in Heller’s proposed report form but were deleted by lawmakers during the final days of the 2003 session. Members of the Legislative Commission decided this past fall their hands were tied and they couldn’t legally add to the form. But they were advised by legal counsel that Heller is within his rights to send a letter asking candidates and office holders to voluntarily provide the information “to promote open government and trust in our democratic process.”

“It is critical that public disclosure of campaign finances be both transparent and understandable, not a pale imitation of the intent of the law,” said Heller’s letter. “Unfortunately, the form approved by the Legislative Commission does not include information that is necessary to achieve meaningful disclosure of campaign contributions and expenses.”

The reports are required of every person who ran for a state, district, county or township office last year and of all incumbents whether they ran for office or not in 2003. It combines the old Disposition of Unspent Contributions report, Contributions in Excess of $10,000 report and C&E Report into one document.

While that report form is mandatory, Heller expressed the hope that those filing will voluntarily provide additional information — cash on hand at the start of the year, interest and income earned on contributions during the year, total financial contributions received during the year, total monetary expenses during the year and cash on hand at the end of the year.

Heller’s letter says his office will post a list of those who voluntarily provide full disclosure “as well as those who decline to do so” on the Secretary of State’s Web site.

Contact Geoff Dornan at nevadaappeal@sbcglobal.net or 687-8750.