Friday, September 24, 2010

INTRO Part I: Campaign finance – expectations of the individual campaign donor

So you say you gave $25 of your sweat-earned tax-raped paycheck to the candidate who stirred you almost to tears the other night. You were still staring at the candidate’s halo when you wrote the check. As you handed over maybe even $100 you are thinking I’m helping this candidate who will solve all problems get elected. For sure you think, “I don’t want that guy who he said puts ‘lipstick on a pig’ or something like that.”

The money you were planing to use to take the family out to eat is going for a greater good. It will be used for campaign literature, TV ads and all those expenses it takes to get this guy or gal who shares your values elected or reelected.

Now we’re not talking about the big donors like conglomerates Altria, Dominion Resources or those pesky payday lenders. They give to candidates for “ahem” other reasons – a whole different story. Can you say “influence?”

Say your candidate gets elected or reelected – you are pleased – you know that $100 donation was well spent. Not so fast Mr. and Mrs. Born Yesterday. Do you have a computer? No – your SOL. Yes, OK then have you ever heard of the Virginia State Board of Elections, VPAP or campaign finance disclosure? No?

Well then have I got news and links coming for you. First – don’t let any of what I’m saying discourage you from donating to the candidate of your choice. Second – before you donate do some due diligence. Third – keep an eye on him/her.

It’s not easy. No one is going to hold your hand or make you do this. You see, Virginia is a disclosure state. That means all that Virginia law requires is that candidates and currently serving delegates, senators and local officials file campaign reports. You have to go look.

Virginia has campaign finance and ethics (conflict of interest) laws you say. Very good you are correct. Legislators have enacted such laws for themselves. What a sweet deal. Wish I could make my own laws. There are holes in these laws – imagine that. What your legislators don’t want you to know is they leave themselves some “wiggle room.”

What voter/contributor takes the time to check their candidates use of campaign funds. You have to have a computer, know where to look and once you get there know what you are looking for.

As a SBE campaign finance manager once told me it is the “media’s responsibility to police officials campaign filings.” How often do we see media do that? Lack of resources or maybe just the assigning editor thinks it’s a waste of time. It is time consuming to comb through these reports, as you’ll see later.

For convenience I’ll be posting one report downloaded into an Excel spreadsheet and sorted by category to make it easier for explanation. Reporting deadlines vary depending on whether it is an election year or an off year where the official can coast.

To be continued… Originally posted August 26, 2010

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary, Finance, Politics

Tags: , ,

Comments (1)

[…] state” –  it is up to you to determine if an official or candidate uses their campaign funds (See Part One) for official business, connecting with the electorate,  campaigning or <gasp> personal […]

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