Friday, November 20, 2009

Campaign Finance Reporting 2009: 99 pages of “oops” on the wall

Campaign_FinanceBe careful what you ask for from the Virginia State Board of Elections in Richmond. You might just get it and get it I did. Take a gander at the collapsible spreadsheet that David Allen, Campaign Finance Manager sent me last week.

The spreadsheet had some hidden rows and columns that are now viewable. The spreadsheet is also fully expanded when opened in excel. So if you want anything collapsed go to the far left column and click on the “-“ that will turn into a “+” and shrink.


I’ve been avoiding it since last week but I must share and warn of the strides the SBE has made in scrutinizing campaign filings. Allen claims that when printed it amounts to 99 pages. I can’t prove it because I’m certainly not going to print this.

Allen said that this increase in scrutiny was largely due to Mark Powell’s incessant complaints on the SBE’s lack of oversight.

The SBE has received some much-needed help from David Poole and database query staff. Poole is Executive Director of VPAP (Virginia Public Access Project).

Allen now has queries at his disposal to check filings (contributions and expenditures) for missing addresses, service descriptions, occupations, names and credit card snafus. If you take a look be aware that schedule “A” is contributions and schedule “D” is expenditures.

As Allen pointed out the most errors came from Senator and now Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli. It must have been his “McBollincelli” clean sweep broom that tripped him up.

Mason for Delegate (Gwen Mason for the 17th district) had a total of 377 errors in “occupation.” The spreadsheet is cumbersome and for awhile I couldn’t figure out the error. Then I saw the “Entity Place of Business” being blank. That seems easily correctable.

Many entries kicked out have “requested” for the occupation and “unknowns.” I sure hope Cuccinelli hears from all his “requesteds.” It may be worth just paying a fine.

UPDATE: I noticed Delegate Onzlee Ware has placed a disclosure on his website. I also learned he will be addressing the SBE Monday, November 23 regarding the $1000 fine recommendation.

I am learning more (then I ever wanted to know) about campaign finance and the way the Code of Virginia is written to have just enough jargon to make you think there are actually laws governing the use of campaign funds. Paraphrasing an SBE representative the General Assembly when passing campaign finance laws leave loopholes – on purpose.

Allen agreed with Nancy Rodrigues Secretary for the Board of Elections when she said sarcastically, “so what you’re telling me, Valerie is that State Law could be unclear?”

Both Allen and Rodrigues said that the SBE has advocated for over 150 House Bills. They all went into that deep dark dungeon of the House Privileges and Elections Committee never to see the light of day.

Rodrigues said, “after two years she is amazed more and more on just how limited we are … if it’s not Section 24.2 (Code of Virginia) then no can do.”

Click on related articles:

Delegate Onzlee Ware faces $1000 fine per the SBE

The Virginian-Pilot recognizes Virginia’s campaign expenditure loophole

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Election 2009, Finance, Politics

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