This is a personal blog not tied to the business, so I'll go into a little more detail and bluntness here which I did not post on the business website. There is an excellent FAQ there that can answer many questions.
Campaign finance compliance. It is where I started in politics as a 22 year old "kid" on a PAC and it is what I do best today at nearly 31 years of age. I am quite good at keeping committees out of trouble. I have not been fined for campaign finance violations, neither by the FEC, Secretary of State, or county clerk. Ever. That has been the case for nearly nine years and eight accounts/committees. I've not had an errors/omissions notice (similar to a "fix-it" ticket) since 2002. I get the job done right the first time. I've treasured skeleton crews to major operations of tens which rake in tens of thousands of dollars. The only committee type I have not treasured is a gubernatorial committee. One of my tri-annual reports for a PAC was 79 pages. I know what to do. I know what not to do.
Almost all candidates and campaign managers, even those who are very knowledgeable about this issue, absolutely despise the reports. It's tedious. It's time consuming if you are not experienced. There's a lot of laws and rules that the committee must know in order to be compliant. Candidates or managers often do the treasury job themselves, or often have some volunteer who is inexperienced do it. In some cases it works. It worked for me back in early 2001 because I was ambitious and always had an interest at the information available in campaign finance. I still wasn't perfect then and got error/omissions noticed and had to do extra work to fix it. I could probably do that work in one third of the time today that it took me back in 2001 without a "fix it." That's experience. Even then, there were no failure to file, late filings, or other disasters. Besides the fines, late filings and failure to files are oftentimes news. Edmund Senkowski's campaign finance problems were a big story in the Argus. The MEA's lawbreaking made the Argus. Others make the AP wires.
Several times in the past, I've written about campaign finance things on this blog.
In 2007, I turned the MEA in for not disclaiming who paid for their ad. The Argus picked up on this and ran with the story. I had to make sure my I's were dotted and T's were crossed when filing. It turned out the story was true, but the HEA (Howell) took the blame for it in public. I was hoping Lansing would get nailed. The follow through is posted here, and the third story was here.
For those who want to know who owes the big money there's the story on that from 2006. Mr. Senkowski still owes the fines from his campaign and is racking up more fines as we speak by ignoring it. It's up to over $6000 now.
This was my post in February of 2006. Why a Good treasurer is a must for a campaign. The same holds true nearly four years later.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Why a good treasurer is a must for a campaign
Dan Meisler and the Argus today set its sights on Edmund Senkowski, who was Joe Hune's opponent in 2004.""Edmund Senkowski, the Democratic candidate who ran unsuccessfully against state Rep. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, in the 2004 election for state House, owes the state more than $4,000 in fines for not filing campaign finance disclosure reports.
The Michigan Department of State has sent Senkowski six notices of past-due fines totaling $4,075 for either filing documents past the deadlines, or not filing them at all.""
I briefly mentioned this in a previous post, but I didn't fire both barrels at Edmund Senkowski on this. I knew about this back in 2004, but decided to hold my fire since Senkowski had no chance to win with the campaign (or lack of) that he was running. I told Joe Hune and a few others I personally knew, but that's about it. Joe had a good record to run on and was going to coast to a 70-30 win, and as far as I knew, Senkowski wasn't being a jerk, so a negative attack wasn't going to help either Joe or myself.
The lesson from this story is that candidates (both republican and democrat) need to know what they are getting into when they are running. The other lesson is that they need to have their most competent and trustworthy individual be their treasurer. From what I could see from a distance, Senkowski had no clue whatsoever on filing matters, and neither did his treasurer, presumably a family member. If anyone here knows Senkowski, they should tell him to call the Sec of State and get this taken care of ASAP. Sometimes they will drop or reduce fines, but ignoring them isn't going to help matters. Mistakes happen and can be corrected with amended reports, but "failure to file" is the worst possible choice to make.
For future candidates, one thing that helps is the waiver box for extremely low budget campaigns (under $1000). Those who check that box and raise less than $1000 do not have to file reports. Those who check the box and raise over $1000 need to file them.
One thing I can say is that I've never been fined on anything I have treasured, and I've done treasury and filing work off and on for five years. Everything's been turned in on time, and anything with mistakes has been corrected with a pain in the neck Amended report. I hate amendment reports and haven't had to do one since I was a rookie. I don't play games with this stuff. They've seen it all, and even Geoff Fieger got caught.
Part of knowing what to find and not find regarding campaign finance is not just related to filling out the reports and knowing the disclaimers are posted. Two committees were tied up with raffles. That's illegal in Michigan. The Livingston Democrats planned a 50/50 back in 2008. In 2006, Citizens for Wildlife Conservation got nailed rightly so (unfortunately) for a raffle.
My last campaign finance related post was commenting on a weasel of a bill that allowed violators to wait a year before paying their fines. That needs to go nowhere.
In campaigns there are two things. There are things you can control, and things you can't control. Campaign finance situations are things that can be controlled. The most important thing a candidate can do is to have a good treasurer.
Michigan has full disclosure. That's something that is very important to know. There are a few people whose money I will stay away from if I am running for political office. I will have a lot of explaining to do if I report donations from people like Mark Foley (obvious reasons), Josh Sugarmann (for anti-2nd Amendment views), or illegal sources. (Corporations, foreigners). Good treasurers can screen this, and that goes double on the illegal sources.
If you run or manage a campaign, know what you are getting into and be prepared. All it takes is one major controllable error to destroy the entire campaign. A good treasurer will make sure it is not on the campaign finance side of the campaign. In nine years, that has not happened with me, and I have every intention of keeping that streak alive to twenty-five or more years.
If you are interested in running for office, managing a campaign, forming a PAC, or forming a ballot question committee, contact me through my business website if you are interested in a good experienced treasurer. I have a no fine guarantee with my work.