Late filings by political action committees fuel campaign finance reform discussions

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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Chances are you aren’t trying to read the fine print at the end of political ads. And you may even just assume they’re all from the candidate’s campaigns.

But, a lot of those are from political action committees. Now, there are questions about how to ensure they’re held accountable.

Secretary of State Michael Watson sounded the alarm about campaign finance at Wednesday’s Grip-N-Grin event.

“I want you to understand something,” said Watson. “49 PACs did not file yesterday that have spent money in Mississippi. That’s important to make sure that you understand who’s spending money, and who’s saying what, understanding where that money is coming from, and why that’s playing in Mississippi.”

As of 3:15 p.m. on Thursday, there were still 38 outstanding reports from PACs according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Mississippi College political science professor Dr. Glenn Antizzo notes that donations to political action committees or PACs don’t have the same restrictions as the campaigns directly. And what you see from those PACs is often much different than the tone of the campaigns.

“Allows sort of a good cop, bad cop dynamic to play out,” explained Antizzo. “If you look particularly in the Lieutenant Governor’s race, you will notice that the campaigns themselves are playing up the positive attributes of each candidate… But there are political action committees that are tearing at each site…So those are the ones that dig deep and find out a lot of the negative information about the opposition candidate and try to discredit them. And it’s very effective.”

With candidates and others noting they’d like to see campaign finance reforms in place to ensure there’s accountability in where the money is coming from, WLBT asked Sen. Joey Fillingane if he foresees that happening when lawmakers return in January.

“The hope is that while it’s still fresh on everybody’s mind here, in the middle of an election cycle, we will pick that up in the coming session and do something about it,” said Fillingane. “But you know, I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes when the moment passes, the attention span goes away. And we’re on to the next big thing. So we’ll have to wait and see. But I hope so.”

Beyond just political action committees, there’s a lot of talk about how much money is flowing into campaigns.

During this reporting period, Democratic candidate for Governor Brandon Presley raised nearly four times as much as Republican incumbent Tate Reeves. That was a first and Reeves still has drastically more cash on hand.

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