NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee lawmakers — in the closing hours of their legislative session — approved a bill that tackles an issue raised by NewsChannel 5's ongoing Revealed investigation, the issue of so-called "dark money" used to finance attacks against political candidates.
Our investigation revealed how political non-profits secretly fund political messages during political campaigns without being forced to disclose their expenditures.
The Senate and House agreed to a compromise bill Thursday that will require such groups to disclose their expenditures if they spend more than $5,000 in the 60 days before an election.
During the final debate, the Senate sponsor, Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, noted the intense opposition that the bill had faced from several nonprofit groups.
"The comment they make is they are responsible for keeping us, the General Assembly, accountable," Haile said.
"I agree. That's fine. Our responsibility is keeping them accountable."
Under the legislation, those political nonprofits would still not be required to disclose their donors.
Other provisions include:
- More disclosure would be required for campaign contributions and expenditures in the last 10 days before an election.
- Candidates and political campaign committees would be forced to keep campaign money separate from non-campaign funds and keep more records in case of an audit.
- Identification would be required for officers of political action committees to avoid the creation of fake groups that cannot be traced.
- Knowingly failing to file a campaign report or providing false or misleading information would be a Class A misdemeanor.
- Members of the governor's cabinet would be included among those officials who are not allowed to receive consulting fees while in office.
- Annual financial reports by candidates and officials must be signed under penalty of perjury.
- Candidates would be prohibited from using forms that have pre-checked boxes authorizing recurring contributions.
- The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance would be required to hold a public meeting to accept settlements of penalties of more than $25,000.
The final bill did not include a provision pushed by House Speaker Cameron Sexton to expand the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance to include two representatives of good-government groups who were not political appointees.
Related: Battle brews in legislature over disclosures of 'dark money'
SPECIAL SECTION: Revealed
Do you have information for our investigation? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org