A measure to require candidates for elected positions to disclose their financial contributions prior to an election is currently being studied by a committee at the House of Representatives.
House Bill 20-138, as offered by Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan), proposes to require candidates to submit a detailed financial statement of accounts to the Office of the Public Auditor and the Commonwealth Election Commission within an election year on a quarterly basis as well as seven days prior to the election.
Current law requires candidates to file financial statements 50 days after an election.
Propst’s bill is currently with the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations.
The JGO has opted to seek the comments of the OPA on the bill due to the mountain of paperwork it would impose on the public auditor’s office.
“We wanted to reach out to the public auditor to seek his opinion,” said JGO chair Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan). “Is his office able to carry out the load? We are talking about [several] candidates,” he said, adding that the bill has provisions that require each candidate to submit at most five financial statements to the OPA within a year.
In all, there are 44 seats up for grabs this coming Nov. 6. Given that all candidates announced their intention to run and each seat has two candidates running for it, the OPA would have to look at 440 financial statements prior to the election. The bill does not remove the requirement to disclose a candidate’s financial statement post-elections, so the OPA would be reviewing an additional 88 more financial reports after the elections.
“It [might] be an unfunded mandate, [with] more pressure on the OPA,” Blanco said.
According to Propst, the bill’s purpose is to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest and no compelling interests among the candidates.
“If you have a huge corporation backing a particular candidate, I think it’s safe to say the public should know,” he said, adding that his research pointed out that every state, including territories such as Guam, have similar provisions in their laws.
“This [law] basically catches us up with the rest of the world,” he said. “It is very important that we report financial statements and have full disclosure so that the public is fully aware where we receive our financial contributions from.”