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State House Considers Campaign Finance Reforms

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In a new effort to keep state leaders honest, the House passed the first reading of a bill requiring lawmakers to show how they're spending campaign donations before the election this fall.

Candidates for state office would be prohibited from spending campaign dollars for personal use under the measure given preliminary approval Wednesday. The bill was inspired in part by an investigation that showed former Forsyth County Rep. Michael Decker used campaign funds to buy a car and spent about $3,400 in donations for his personal use.

The controversy occurred in 2003, after Decker switched parties to help Democrat Jim Black retain his job as Speaker of the House.

New legislation that restricts the use of campaign dollars appears to have the support of both House Democrats and Republicans. The members differ over whether to make the restrictions apply to this year's election campaign.

"If someone is planning to use the money for personal expenses, the voters ought to know that before the election," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.

"It is on their disclosure reports where people are going to know how the money is used," said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina.

The House approved the campaign finance measure on a vote of 108 to 8 and will apply to this year's November election. Speaker Black - who has faced campaign-spending controversy of his own -- voted yes.

The House must still pass its third reading on Thursday. If it gets through, the measure moves on to the Senate.


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