Want a Million Dollars?
Apparently the state of Rhode Island doesn’t. The state is owed $1,245,200 as of August, and possibly more by now. According to a monthly report from the RI Board of Elections, more than 250 politicians, candidates and Political Action Committees (PAC), both past and present, owe amounts ranging from as little as $25 to as much as $132,831.
Usually, the reason for this is because of late or unfiled campaign finance reports. The initial fine for being late is $25 and then $2 per day is added until the fine is paid. Ultimately, it is the candidate or the head of the PAC who is responsible, however all will also have a Treasurer responsible for filing timely reports.
In full disclosure, I have served as a Treasurer on a campaign and I did also file my a report (my first) late. My candidate immediately paid the fine and was in the clear.
The Board of Elections now has their Electronic Reporting and Tracking System (ERTS) that they put in place about six years ago. Previously, the campaign needed to get a paper copy of the report to the Board of Elections by the deadline. The ERTS system allows for all the reporting to be done online. If nothing has changed, then the campaign merely needs to log in and press a single submit button. It just takes seconds.
Take a look at the list though and I’m sure you’ll recognize many of the names. You can also go back and see older reports by simply changing the date in the URL to the report. You’ll see some of the amounts increasing each month. Why aren’t these being paid off by people who are still serving in office or running for office.
Here’s a solution. If you owe a fine to the Board of Elections on the election filing day, you may not run for office or your lobbying license is revoked.
Why do we let these fines just go on for years? We even see some in there from former politicians who move on to other politically connected positions. There’s no good reason for them to ever pay these off. Let’s put some teeth back in the law and the fine system. If a candidate can’t even be responsible enough with their own campaign budget and sticking to deadlines and rules, why should we allow that person to make decisions on taxpayer money? We shouldn’t. Pay up or get out.