Delaware Democrats push transparency bills

DOVER — Three legislative bills filed Tuesday would place additional requirements on lobbyists and political committees, improve transparency in government and mandate greater disclosure, its Democratic sponsors said.

One proposal, from Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, would require lobbyists to state whether they are being paid for their work supporting or opposing bills. Lobbyists who are compensated would have to pay a “fee” to the state. Anyone failing to do so would be barred from acting as a lobbyist until the fee is paid.

That charge would be used to help fund the Public Integrity Commission.

Rep. Paul Baumbach

Rep. Paul Baumbach

“The Public Integrity Commission operates with a limited staff on a shoestring budget, keeping track of hundreds of registered lobbyists and thousands of reports they generate each year,” Rep. Baumbach said in a statement. “If we want the commission to provide more information to the public and aggressively pursue complaints and grievances, I think it’s only fair that those who create this workload help offset the costs. This bill also will increase transparency by letting the public know whether a lobbyist is being compensated by a client.”

Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, is the sponsor of the other two bills. One would mandate political committees provide the employer for every person who contributes to the committee. Federal laws currently necessitate such disclosure.

Sen. Townsend’s second bill would further spell out provisions blocking lawmakers from using public funds or their office for “personal gain.”

“Open government is not a partisan issue, it is a fundamental promise in any healthy democracy,” Sen. Townsend said in a statement. “It is a cornerstone of public trust. As elected officials, we should go the extra mile to ensure we maintain the public’s trust. We should be giving Delawareans every reason to have confidence in their democracy and our governmental institutions.”

The watchdog group Common Cause Delaware supports the bills.

“By increasing the public’s ability to know who funds political candidates and lobbyists, strengthening our Public Integrity Commission and banning state employees from using public resources for private gain, these bills strengthen democracy in the First State,” program director Claire Snyder-Hall said in a statement.

The measures have no GOP co-sponsors.

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