Thursday, August 27, 2009

If I have to follow campaign finance laws, you should too

The Argus hit the nail on the head with this editorial.

From the Argus

One of life's most difficult challenges is to select the dumbest idea to come out of the Michigan Legislature. There are just so many worthy contenders.

But it may be hard to top the proposed law that would allow a time payment plan of up to a year for state lawmakers who couldn't be bothered to comply with state campaign-finance laws that were passed by ... well, by state lawmakers.

That's what is in the bill package introduced by state Rep. Fred Durhal Jr., D-Detroit. House Bills 4713 and 4714 were introduced in March. Thankfully, nothing has come of them since then.

Here's the deal. People running for office are supposed to file campaign reports that detail what they spend, where they spend it and who contributed to their campaign. There is a deadline. If the deadline isn't met, the candidate is fined.

Current law also says that you can't be sworn in as a state lawmaker if you have outstanding fines. That apparently is what motivated Durhal. He said a colleague faced a hurdle when asked to pay $4,000 in fines before taking office.

He said that was a "flaw in the law" and now wants the secretary of state to allow payments of late filing and other fees and fines for up to 12 months.

But it's not a flaw in the law. It's a flaw with the state lawmaker who failed to follow the law. If he or she — Durhal won't identify the offender — had filed on time (which is to say, obeyed the law) — then there wouldn't be a problem. There wouldn't have been any fines.

The bills are crap. If I have to follow the law, you should too.

Who's the culprit? Durhal's campaign has a few fines. Durhal's campaign finance sheet is here. He coughed up $200 in fines. Maybe the offender is Durhal, who ironically, I believe is an ex-cop. Durhal was also the treasurer in addition to the candidate. No excuses.

I have over eight and almost nine years of experience as a treasurer, and have dealt with both the FEC and the Secretary of State's office. It's a pain in the arse at times to deal with the requirements and the deadlines. Candidates are overwhelmed by it and hate the campaign finance requirements with a passion. Most I know do not want to deal with the mess. All of them must deal with it and need to make sure they have a competent treasurer. Many do not, and simply pass this along as just another volunteer job. Well, you get what you pay for then, and that can lead to bad press, fines, and trouble. One Livingston County candidate who lost his state rep election in 2004 owes thousands of dollars in fines. He still owes them. Failure to file.

I'm going to brag a bit here. Out of the eight organizations/committees I've treasured, I have never been fined, and have not had a fix-it since 2002. That's not because of luck. That's because I leave things airtight and don't leave openings for fines.

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