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Stumbo Proposes Doubling Campaign Contribution Limit

Ervins Strauhmanis/Creative Commons

Kentucky legislators will be asked to consider next year whether to double the amount individuals can donate to state political candidates and campaign committees.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo pre-filed the legislation on Friday for the session beginning in January.

The bill would increase the amount individuals could donate to candidates from $1,000 to $2,000 per election. The amount they could donate to state and local political parties would jump from $2,500 to $5,000.

In past legislative sessions, the bill has been supported by leadership in both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Stumbo said the bill would help candidates better compete with opponents backed by political action committees.

“It is more important than ever that our candidates have the resources they need to make sure their own voice is heard,” Stumbo said.

Individuals can donate an unlimited amount to so-called super PACs, some of which backed the campaigns of candidates in this year’s gubernatorial election. The organizations are technically “independent” — they aren’t allowed to coordinate with the candidates. But they tend to air commercials that either promote or denigrate one candidate or the other.

If passed, the bill wouldn't take effect until July 15, meaning it wouldn't affect the upcoming primary election.

During the last statehouse election year, $11 million was raised by Kentucky candidates, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Totals for how much political action committees spent are harder to pin down due to differences in reporting requirements, but estimates for the 2014 House elections were in the millions. Republican organizations such as the Republican State Leadership Committee and New Direction Kentucky focused on trying to flip Democratic districts in favor of the GOP. Democratic groups America Family Values and Kentuckians for Economic Development tried to defend the party's seats.

Stumbo argues that the legislation is needed because donation limits are out of date due to inflation.

Individuals were able to donate up to $4,000 to statewide candidates until scandal pushed the legislature to change the law in the mid-1990s.

A similar version of Stumbo's bill nearly passed both chambers of the legislature last year, after it was brought up in a flurry of late-night legislation on the last day of the session.

It was narrowly defeated after critics accused the bill’s promoters of trying to ram it through at the last minute.