Who’s not up to code? Campaign expenditures due for local candidates

by ANDY SEVILLA

Reporting campaign contributions and expenditures is something state rules explicitly demand. Buda city council candidate and former member, Cathy Chilcote, failed to do just that and said it was simply “an oversight.”

“I spent less than $500 so I thought I did not need to file one,” Chilcote said in an email. “… Isn’t it a situation wherein if you spend less than $500.00 you do not have to file?”

The Texas Ethics Commission rules, however, state something different about modified reporting – the declaration not to accept or spend more than $500 in connection with an election.

“To file under the modified schedule, a candidate must file the declaration required under subsection (c) [a candidate must file a declaration of intent not to accept more than $500 in political contributions or make more than $500 in political expenditures (excluding filing fees) in connection with the election]of this section no later than the 30th day before the first election to which the declaration applies,” state the commission rules. “A declaration filed under subsection (c) of this section is valid for one election cycle only.”

“As this was a smaller election, I did not do a campaign mailer. Only door hangars which I ran off and a letter which I ran off,” Chilcote said, adding that she only expended funds to buy stamps and 50 signs, which totaled $376.23

Chilcote, who as of Tuesday morning had not filed any campaign finance reports, did not specify in her email whether she would be filing a modified report late.

The Election Code states that the criminal penalty for untimely or incomplete reports is a Class C misdemeanor offense.

Chilcote lost her seat on the Buda city council in November to George Haehn, and was vying for a spot left vacant by Todd Ruge who was elected mayor in December.

Chilcote came in last place for the Place 2 seat in the Jan. 26 election, and contender Wiley Hopkins, who garnered 48 percent of the vote, fell short of securing his position on council Saturday, but lead his opponents in campaign contributions and expenditures.

According to his Jan. 15 campaign finance report, Hopkins took in a $100 contribution, from Buda resident Wesley Roach, for the whole reporting period, and expended $1326.07 for posters, yard signs and flyers.

Amy Proctor, who took in 28 percent of the vote and will once again face off with Hopkins in a runoff election, reported no campaign contributions, but expended $639.14 for yard signs, flyers and cards, according to her filed campaign finance reports.

Proctor filed three different campaign finance reports with City Secretary Danny Batts, all of which identified the exact same expenditures.

Proctor’s first campaign finance report filed on Jan. 14, showed no contributions and three expenditures – $169.14 to Buda Postal Station for flyers and cards on Dec. 28; $370 to A.G.E. Graphics, LLC in Long Bottom, Ohio for yard signs and stakes on Dec. 28; and $100 to a “neighborhood boy” named Alec to pass out flyers on Jan. 5.

Though Proctor’s filed expenditures equaled to $639.14, she reported total political expenditures of $699.14.

In Proctor’s Jan. 18 campaign finance report, which she identified as the state required Jan. 15 report, she reported no contributions and reported the same expenditures as those reported in her Jan. 14 report, and the expenditures identified, too, equaled $639.14, though she reported total political expenditures of $699.14.

In Proctor’s Jan. 22 campaign finance report, which she identified as the state required eighth-day before an election report, she, again, reported no contributions and the same expenditures reported in her previous two reports. Though this time, her identified expenditures did equal her total political expenditures – $639.14.

Proctor said in a written statement that mathematical errors had been made in the reports where $699.14 was reported as the total political expenditures, and that forms have been filed to amend those reports. The total expenditures equaled $639.14.

The Texas Ethics Commission states, “every candidate and every officeholder is required to file reports of contributions and expenditures by January 15 and July 15 of each year… (and) an opposed candidate in an upcoming election must file reports of contributions and expenditures 30 days and eight days before the election.”

Hopkins did not file a campaign finance report eight days before the Jan. 26 election.

The Commission states that if the 30 days before the election report is the candidate’s first required report, then the period covered in that report begins on the day the candidate filed their campaign treasurer appointment and runs through the fortieth day before the election.

Also, the Commission finds that the report due eight days before an election “covers the period that begins on the first day after the period covered by the last required report and ends on the 10th day before the election,” according to the campaign finance guide.

Hopkins and Proctor will have to file an additional campaign finance report, per state rules.

“In addition to other required reports, an opposed candidate in a runoff election shall file one report for that election. The runoff election report must be received by the authority with whom the report is required to be filed not later than the eighth day before runoff election day,” states the Election Code.

That report should cover political contributions and expenditures beginning the ninth day before the Jan. 26 election and continuing through the tenth day before the runoff election day.

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