As November rapidly approaches, investigations and complaints filed to federal and state election commissions over alleged finance violations continue to rise. While the federal candidates seem to grab the spotlight when it comes to complaints, several major stories have hit the presses this year, and all of them illustrate how contentious campaign finance is today.
Here are four top stories in state campaign finance news from August:
"Several major campaign finance stories hit the news this year."
1. Long tenure, poor oversight
Jim Schmitt has been the Mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin, since 2003. One might think this would be long enough to fully understand the importance of filing campaign financing reports on time, but this was not the case. The Green Bay Press-Gazette recently reported that Mayor Schmitt came under fire for filing his campaign finance reports to the necessary authorities 45 days after he should have, noting that the city's clerk repeatedly contacted the campaign asking for this information.
Sadly for the sitting mayor, the state election commission already launched an investigation over alleged illegal contributions. In early September, Schmitt agreed to plead guilty to three misdemeanor charges. The charges were related to accepting illegal campaign donations and falsifying information on his campaign finance records.
Although there have been requests for Schmitt to step down, he has been steadfast in his refusal to do so.
2. Law enforcement fumbles
The Lansing State Journal recently reported that the standing sheriff of Eaton County, Michigan, is now under investigation for an alleged violation of the state's campaign finance laws. According to the news provider, State Senator Rick Jones filed the complaint, asserting that the sheriff's campaign had at least two violations. One violation was dismissed but the other was considered worthy of further investigation. The allegation is that Sheriff Tom Reich's campaign accepted a contribution from a corporate account. The Sheriff responded that he was not aware of the illegal activity until receiving a letter from the county.
This is somewhat of a common reaction among politicians when faced with such allegations, and is certainly not a good one. Those in charge of campaigns need to ensure that they are strictly and consistently monitoring their finance practices and reporting them properly. Better to follow the rules from the start as these types of investigations are expensive and can quickly diminish a candidate's credibility.
3. Another mayor's big headache
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the complaints filed against standing Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney just got a bit more serious, as the federal government is now involving itself. The initial complaint came as a result of contributions from several unions in the city, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Now, the news source pointed out that the federal government has subpoenaed Mayor Kenney's campaign finance records, and is also expanding its investigations out to the unions in question.
Following all campaign finance rules and keeping your campaign finance records in good order is a lifesaver in a situation like this.
Both the public and your political rivals are watching. No matter if you manage a campaign raising money or a PAC spending money, make sure that you know and follow all of the rules and file accurate and timely reports.