Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's that time of year again! (Campaign Books are open for public Inspection)

Sadly, no one at the Bellingham Herald or KGMI is interested in researching alleged campaign violations to determine if a candidate has the character and integrity to hold public office.

If the 2007 election cycle is any indication of the local media's position on PDC/FEC or Hatch Act complaints, it appears that reporters and radio personalities would rather attack the character of the individuals filing the complaint, than research the alleged violations for themselves.

Why is public disclosure important? The public disclosure process provides a method for individuals to raise genuine and legitimate concerns about campaign reporting and for those concerns to be independently investigated; and, for appropriate action to be taken by the PDC or other enforcement agency to ensure that all sources of campaign financing are reported so voters can make an informed decision about candidates BEFORE an election takes place.

Professor James Davidson Hunter of the University of Virginia is co-author of a study that determined Americans have conflicting feelings about character in public figures.

The report, “The Politics of Character,” found that the moral character of candidates “is trumpeted, but more as the absence of corruption than as the display of particular virtues.” Said Bob Gibson, reporter from the Daily Progress, in Charlottesville, VA.

According to Professor Hunter's study, there isn't much coherent thinking going on about the importance of ethics and values in government. In fact, Americans in general appear to be willing to put up with a wide array of bad behavior without questioning the effect that behavior can have on the way we are governed, (as demonstrated by recent federal indictments in Alaska VECO scandal and the mayor of Detroit's legal woes).

So, if you are one of those political junkies that believes local, state and federal candidates have an obligation to obey the law, you're going to have to do some independent research to determine if candidates are filing accurate and timely reports.

According to state public disclosure law, campaign books must be open to the public by appointment between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM during the eight days before the primary and/or general election, except Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays. Inspections are by appointment only.

Candidates are required to list the address (location of the books) on line 10 of the C-1 form. Line 10 also provides contact information for scheduling an appointment to inspect the books.

The PDC does not accept PO Boxes or out of area addresses for campaign book inspections.

Campaign contact information can be found on C-1 forms, filed with the Washington State PDC. A candidate's books can be reviewed by appointment.

To determine the location of a candidate's books, click here.

Here are a few hints to assist you in your efforts. (The PDC website is not easy to navigate).

Click the "show choices tab" across from filer name. Scroll down until you find the candidate that you are interested in. (Last name is listed first). Select your candidate's name. Click the send query button at bottom of page.

Scroll down to C-1 form. Open form.

Scroll down to line 10.

The street address, room number and city where campaign books will be available will be listed here.

If you are refused an appointment by a candidate or campaign staffer, call the PDC at (360) 753-1111. The PDC gets about four complaints a year from citizens who have been refused an appointment to inspect a candidate's books.

PDC (Public Disclosure Commission) COMPLAINTS

Think you found something? Want to file a complaint? Read this first:

Please note that the filing of a complaint requires complainants to sign an oath verifying that the information posted in the complaint is true to the best of the complainant's knowledge.

My personal approach? Go after the candidates who have demonstrated a pattern of violations. Anyone can make one or two mistakes. I prefer filing complaints against candidates who appear to have an established pattern of late or inaccurate reports throughout the campaign.

*Hint - if you find a number of violations - file a public disclosure request of e-mails between the candidate, the candidate's staff and the PDC. It's a great way to identify alleged violations that have not been corrected by the campaign.

PDC manuals, brochures and key filing dates can be found here:

FEC (Federal Election Commission) COMPLAINTS

Did you find campaign donations from individuals or businesses that are from Canada or another country? File a complaint with the FEC here:

How to file an FEC Complaint Brochure:

If you're looking for Hatch Act information - please go here:

Before requesting an advisory opinion from Office of Special Counsel (OSC), please take the time to research the candidate's employer and the source of federal funding. This information is usually available on the employer's website or by request. Be polite. Believe it or not, manners are still important.

Hatch Act complaints can be filed on line: Once again, do your homework. You are filing a legal complaint that may trigger court or enforcement action. Make sure that your documentation of an alleged violation is complete and well-organized before you file the complaint.

Happy Sleuthing!

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