Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

July 14, 2014

Heard it all

What don’t they understand about filing?

— Pesky thing, this requirement that political candidates file campaign finance reports.

What business is it of ours, anyway, where, when and how they stock their campaign war chests? You know, right to privacy, freedom of speech and expression, that sort of thing.

The list of politicians who have wound up in hot water because of campaign financing irregularities is long, indeed. An official in Massachusetts was indicted for allegedly siphoning $1.65 million from the state’s lottery advertising funds to use in his campaign. He eventually paid a $100,000 fine.

One of the more notorious cases in recent years involved former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, who was convicted in 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy charges related to illegal campaign finance activities allegedly committed on behalf of Republicans. An appeals court ultimately overturned his conviction.

Jared DeMarinis is director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland State Board of Election, and he’s the one our politicians call with excuses when they find out the state is fining them for not filing campaign finance reports on time. He told The Daily Record he’s just about heard it all.

Last week, the state election board approved 33 requests for waivers, some because there was a death in the family or other personal problem.

The most popular excuse is that campaign officials didn’t understand how to use the computer software. (In some cases, the failure involved neglecting to hit the button that sends the report on its electronic way to Annapolis.)

Often, the waiver is requested on grounds that having to pay the fine will pose an undue financial hardship. (We wonder how well that one would go over in traffic court.)

Most of the waivers are granted to the campaigns of people who simply ran for office and had no idea of what they were doing or were required to do.

Based on our observations, that description could apply in more ways than one to many of those who decide to run for office.

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