Unpaid Campaign Fines
A new report on the unpaid fines from the RI Board of Elections (BOE) is out (h/t Dan McGowan) and it is five pages of names and the amount they owe. Some of it is a who’s who of Rhode Island politics.
So first, how does someone get fined by the BOE? Once a person, committee or PAC has registered with the BOE, they are responsible for filing campaign finance reports according to the BOE’s published schedule. From personal experience, I can say that these deadlines are not hard to find. They are posted on the board’s web site and they mail the schedule to the head of the campaign and the listed campaign treasurer. Back when many of these fines were incurred, someone had to get paper over to the BOE by the deadline. Today, they have dramatically improved things with their ERTS system of online reporting. So missing deadlines today should be much harder to do when filing a report can be done from a computer.
When someone misses a deadline, what is the fine structure? From the BOE’s Summary flyer:
$25 Fine for Late Filing
A filer who fails to file a required report by the report due date shall be fined $25.
Daily Fine of $2 for Failure to Respond to “Notice of Non-Compliance”
A filer who fails to file a report and remit payment for a fine assessed within 7 days of receipt of a “Notice of Non-Compliance” shall be fined $2 per day from the date of receipt of said notice until the date the report and remittance have been received at the Boardof Elections.
Ignore your fines for years and the total will add up.
Am I going to call out individuals listed on the report? Absolutely. But first a disclosure. I have had to pay this fine once before. I served as the treasurer for a town committee and missed a deadline by one day. I submitted the report the next day and paid the fine.
There is no way of knowing exactly who the people are in the report, it isn’t crosslisted with the seat they ran for. Plus, in RI, we have many people with the same name, so I’m not going to definitively say who the person is, in case I were to mix them up with a relative or someone else by the same name. Unless there’s no question as to who they are.
Some of the bigger fines on the list include, Patrick McDonald, a State Senator from 1996 to 2002 owes $114,618. Others who share the same name as someone who ran for the General Assembly were Michael Rollins, $77,226, Kevin Johnson, $76,573 and Daniel Grzych for $53,909. That list can goes on with many others who owe five-figure fines.
It isn’t just office-holders and candidates who owe, it’s also local committees. The Foster Democratic Committee owes $4, 283, North Kingstown Democratic Committee owes $290 and the Central Falls Democratic Committee owes $754. However, they may be simply following their leader, as someone with the same name as the state’s Democratic Party Chairman, Edwin Pacheco, is on the list of fines as well.
To be fair, Republican committees made the list as well with the East Greenwich Republican Committee owning the biggest fine at $1,661 and the House Republican caucus owes $318.
However, the big star of the list, the one that seems to stick out most glaringly is someone who shares the name with our Congressman from the second district, James Langevin owes $31,750.
With some of these fines going back as far as 2004, it really makes me wonder what’s the point? Why bother assessing the fines if you have no means of enforcing them? Some of the people on the list are still in office but many of them were people who ran for a seat, lost and then abandoned all their responsibility to the system. Maybe they were initially unaware of the full process, but that is a responsibility of a candidate to know the process, to cross ts and dot is. Plus, they were informed of their fine and had seven days to clear the issue up, and chose not to.
These fines shouldn’t be held in any different regard than any others in our society as the sources of campaign funding needs to be a transparent process. The Assembly has no problem instituting new fines/fees/taxes or increases to make a couple bucks here or there. Putting some real teeth into the campaign finance reporting laws so the state can collect what it is owed would tap into yet another revenue stream for the state.
ADDENDUM: In the comments section, House Minority Leader Brian Newberry adds that the House Republican Caucus mentioned on the list and in this article is actually now officially listed as “inactive” with the BOE and is unrelated to the current committee that he oversees.