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Secretary of State initiates legal action to recover unpaid campaign finance fines

Chip Brownlee

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The Secretary of State’s Office has begun legal action to recover unpaid campaign finance fines incurred by political action committees and candidate committees during the 2018 election cycle, Secretary of State John Merrill said Tuesday.

The Secretary’s office has issued 1,180 penalties over the course of the election cycle for a total amount of $201,893.28. About $106,000 has been collected so far, the secretary’s office said. Fines that have not yet been paid have either been waived by the Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State is still trying to collect those fines from committees.

Of the penalties that haven’t been paid, 20 committees have exceeded the statutory period in which they can pay the fine, which allowed for Merrill to begin legal action to recover the funds. That process has begun, Merrill said.

Any fines paid by committees are deposited into the state’s General Fund budget.

The Secretary of State’s Office did not release specific political action committees and campaign committees that are facing legal action for fine recovery.

Updates to Alabama’s campaign finance laws were passed in the state Legislature in 2015 and went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle.

Those changes require the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office to issue penalties to Political Action Committees and Principle Campaign Committees, the latter more commonly known as candidates, that do not file monthly, weekly or daily campaign finance reports on time.

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Fines are issued when a committee doesn’t file campaign finance reports by midnight on the date the report is due.

Generally, reports are due on the second business day of each month, but some campaigns are required to file weekly or daily reports depending on the amount raised during those periods.

Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the specified time period.

Penalty amounts increase as the number of late reports increase from the committee.

When a committee files a report late, but within 48 hours of the date the report is due, the committee is issued a warning. That first late report does not count against them or require a fine be paid, and the campaign finance laws state that those warnings are not a violation of the law.

 

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