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34 > 20, and other campaign finance news

I’ve added two more candidate reports to my campaign finance report spreadsheet, Robert Kane and KA Khan, both in District F. Each of them had filed paper reports instead of electronic reports. You can see a list of such reports here, and you can see scanned PDF copies of their reports here: for Khan and for Kane.

If you look at these reports, you will note that on the cover page, each candidate signs an affidavit that includes the following: “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” If you then take a look at KA Khan’s report, down at the bottom he lists his total contributions as $34,010. I realize math can be a tricky subject for some people, but I don’t think it’s too hard to grasp the concept that $34,010 is bigger than $20,000. Yet Khan signed the affidavit swearing he did not and would not collect more than $20,000 in contributions. Seems to me something is wrong here. And as Greg notes, among other things, Khan has spent a bunch of money sending out six mail pieces, yet those expenses are not accounted for on his report. I’m told a complaint is being filed against Khan. Should be easy enough to make a determination in this one.

Now as was noted in the comments to this entry when I complained about some other obviously erroneous reports, the City Secretary apparently doesn’t have the authority to reject them even if it’s clear at a glance that there’s problems. But I don’t see why the City Attorney, or some other agency acting as an ombudsman, couldn’t do a review of the forms as they come in and take some kind of action to respond to the ones that have glaring errors. If the City Attorney is going to disqualify candidates from the ballot for dumb yet basically harmless errors on the filing form, why isn’t there an equivalent level of vigor with campaign finance reports, in which the potential for deception and malfeasance is vastly greater? Right now we have a system that relies on third parties – often people acting on behalf of a rival candidate – to file complaints, which take however long to resolve, usually well after the election in question. There needs to be a better way. If this requires a legislative fix, then so be it. They’ve already got one issue from this election that needs their attention, may as well add one more item to the list.

As noted at the beginning of this post, I found campaign finance reports for the two more candidates, which I added to my spreadsheet. That still leaves a bunch of candidates for whom I can find no report. The same thing happened in July, where a number of reports did not show up until more than a week after the reporting deadline. One candidate to whom this happened in July, and whose report isn’t visible today, is Alex Wathen in District A. Wathen has confirmed to me that he did submit his report on time – you can see a PDF of his receipt here – but that the City Secretary’s office has had trouble reading his file, as they had in July. Mills Worsham in G has also confirmed to me that he submitted his report and that the City Secretary’s office said they were having trouble with it, too. Interestingly, I called the City Secretary’s office yesterday to inquire about a few of the missing reports, and the person I spoke to told me they didn’t have one from Worsham, or from Roger Bowden (District B), Otis Jordan (District D), Lewis Cook (District F), or Peter Acquaro (District F). I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but given the issues we saw in July that are affecting Wathen and Worsham now, this really needs to be investigated to get to the bottom of it. Technical issues should not be a barrier to the public’s access to this information.

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  1. […] candidates can and do get tripped up by minutia. I marveled during this election about obviously problematic finance reports, and it seems clear to me that the right answer here is a software fix. Imagine a TurboTax-like […]