Freeman introduces bills to provide greater transparency in legislature and political campaigns

HARRISBURG, Dec. 9 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation designed to offer greater transparency regarding how money is spent by the General Assembly and who's donating to its candidates.

The first bill (H.B. 1744) would require the state auditor general to audit the General Assembly and its legislative service agencies, rather than hiring a certified public accountant.

"The auditor general is the chief watchdog of how state funds are spent," Freeman said. "His office audits the various agencies of state government on a regular basis. Having the auditor general do the legislative audits will make it a more public and transparent process and has the added benefit of saving money since the need for hiring an outside firm would no longer be required."

Freeman's bill would require the auditor general to audit all financial accounts of the General Assembly annually, and to provide for special audits if necessary. Copies of the audits would be submitted to House and Senate leaders and be made available to the public.

His second bill (H.B. 1745) would require candidates for the General Assembly to follow the same expense report requirements as candidates for statewide office. Currently, both General Assembly and statewide office candidates are required to file a report on the second Friday before an election, but only candidates for statewide office are required to report on or before the sixth Tuesday before the election.

"This change would provide earlier disclosure and greater transparency on who is contributing to candidates for the General Assembly," Freeman said. "This is information voters should have access to earlier in a campaign than they currently do."

The currently required second-Friday expense report is filed just 10 days before the election. Freeman said that filing comes so close to the election that the information about where candidates are getting their contributions tends to get lost in the last week of campaign literature and other information.

"This would put everything on the table and allow voters to see who is backing which candidates and what they stand for, or more importantly, who they stand with," Freeman said. "It also offers candidates the benefit of saving time and effort when filing their second Friday report because they would have already reported finance information just over a month earlier."

Both measures are expected to be referred to the House State Government Committee for review.