Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dickerson Needs To Clean Up Campaign Finance Reports

Federal Election Commission records which are available online hint that 7th District Republican congressional candidate Eric Dickerson is struggling to comply with the cumbersome, yet legally required reporting requirements. If he wants to be taken seriously as a congressional candidate, he needs to clean up his act quickly.

According to FEC records, Dickerson did not actually file a statement concerning the formation of his congressional campaign committee until March 17, 2006, nearly two months after he filed as a candidate for the office. Dickerson's campaign treasurer, Barb Coffey, received a Failure to Report Notice from the FEC dated April 21, 2006, concerning the committee's pre-primary report. Prior to that date, the committee had made just one filing and a 48-hour notice report of a $5,000 campaign contribution his campaign received from a PAC affiliated with the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Dickerson filed his pre-primary report on April 28, 2006, or a week after receiving the failure to report notice. In that report, Dickerson disclosed just $10,891.00 in receipts and a mere $40.50 in disbursements. The campaign listed debts of $3,000. By this point, Dickerson had commenced an extensive media buy for Indiana's May 2 primary, he had launched a first-rate website and he was touring the district in a luxurious RV. His official report belies the extent of his campaign expenditures.

AI can sympathize with a newcomer to politics struggling to comply with the burdensome and complex FEC reporting requirements. Several years ago my brother agreed to serve as campaign treasurer for a political novice running for Congress in Illinois. I told my brother, who had trouble balancing his own checkbook, that he was not up to the job and to find someone else better suited to do the job. He assured me that there wouldn't be much to it, and that he wasn't concerned. Not too much later he began calling me and asking all kinds of questions and lamenting that the reporting requirements were too complicated, and that he had inadvertently missed a filing deadline. Fortunately, his candidate lost in the primary and his troubles soon enough went away.

The FEC will not hesitate to crack down on the Dickerson campaign committee if it fails to comply with its reporting requirements. At a minimum, the campaign could be hit with fines which can amount to thousands of dollars. Dickerson has obviously made a serious commitment to running for the 7th Congressional District seat currently held by Rep. Julia Carson (D). He should similarly make a serious commitment to finding someone who is experienced and capable of ensuring that his campaign complies with FEC regulations.


Mark W. Rutherford said...

The campaign finance requirements for both the state and FEC are complex and I've seen time and again how they have discouraged competition. One of the most poignant events I've observed was several years ago at a meeting of the Indiana Election Commission. A person who had run in a primary was fined for a violation. It was clear she was trying to become involved in the political process as a good citizen. I heard her say, after she received her fine, words to the effect that she got the message and she'll never run again because ordinary citizens shouldn't dare run against the "politicos" who created these complex rules.

If we truly want "campaign finance reform", we need to do away with these incumbent protection acts by repealing the current scheme of campaign finance laws. They are now used to stifle dissent through fines, bureaucracies and their mind-numbing complexity. To the extent they've stifled competition, they are a complete success.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Mark--I totally agree. I think the disclosure is very important, but I think it could be accomplished in a much more straight-forward manner. One of the disappointing aspects of McCain-Feingold is how much further it complicated the law in an effort to reform the system.

Anonymous said...

^That's because McCain-Feingold isn't as much about reforming campaign finance than about further assuring that the current system remains one that favors incumbents over challengers. There's are a number of other reasons, notably gerrymandering, why it's become easier for incumbents to remain in office. But a complex system of campaign finance disclosure that, oddly enough, keeps challengers from financing campaigns with large donors interested in change is one of them.

Mike Kole said...

Quite agree with RiShawn. The actual purpose of McCain-Feingold was to create an incumbent protection program. The public sadly bought it as campaign finance reform, but it is nothing of the kind.