By Ben Wofford, Brown Political Review, February 9, 2014
One morning last month, Rhode Islanders woke up to the news that the National Rifle Association had been charged with the second-largest campaign finance ethics violation in state history. In a settlement reached by the Rhode Island Board of Elections, the NRA admitted that it improperly funneled money from its national Political Action Committee (or “PAC”) to the Rhode Island-specific PAC, illegal under state law. The PAC was fined a historic $63,000.
What the stories didn’t reveal? That the NRA’s wrongdoing, the record fine, and the shuttering of the NRA’s Rhode Island PAC was the result of the initial hunch of one person: Brown University student Sam Bell.
Bell’s story is certainly noteworthy for its David-and-Goliath appeal; the plot notes sound like a chilled-out version of “A Civil Action.” It’s also remarkable for the NRA’s astonishingly poor cover-up (their reports defy simple arithmetic) and the even more stunning realization that nobody checked them for ten years. But the real reasons Bell matters — the success of his legal complaint and the clues that led him there — together represent something else entirely: a new model, potentially, for enforcing campaign finance laws in Rhode Island and around the country….
continue reading at Brown Political Review