Not Quite So Many Scofflaws in High Places As It Seemed

As expected, I’ve gotten some blowback from my post naming all the state lawmakers who didn’t file campaign finance reports by the March 15 deadline, and still hadn’t as of a couple weeks later.

I’ve heard from five lawmakers in all. One, Sen. Brian Campion, said I’d mistakenly put him on the list, and he was right. Four others (Sen. Phil Baruth, Reps. Seth Chase, Martin LaLonde and Emily Long) said they’d been advised by the Secretary of State’s office that they didn’t need to file.

And yes, they were right.

Here’s the deal. If you ended the 2020 campaign cycle with nothing in the bank and reported that fact at the time, and you have yet to raise or spend $500 or more in this cycle, you don’t have to report until you reach that threshold.

That was, indeed, the case for the four lawmakers named above. It may be true for others as well (and I’ll add their names to the list if they let me know). But I believe their number is fairly small.

My reasoning: First, politicians will carry forward an unspent balance if they possibly can, to give themselves a head start on the next campaign or discourage potential challengers or build a war chest for an attempted move up the ladder. Members of our Congressional delegation are the masters of this art; at any given moment, they’ll have millions in their accounts and continue to fundraise for reasons that have nothing to do with need.

Second, Secretary of State Jim Condos knows the rules. If he knew or thought that a whole bunch of lawmakers legally didn’t file, he wouldn’t have sent an email blast reminding them that they had flouted the law. He gets no benefit from needlessly alienating dozens of lawmakers, most of whom are fellow Democrats.

In my defense, there was no way for me to know that. I could have checked everybody’s final report for 2020, but I couldn’t know whether they’d hit the $500 mark this cycle.

But a handful of people were wrongly put on the “scofflaw” list, and I’m sorry for that. As for the 69 others on the list, well, what’s your excuse?

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