Bill creates deadline to pay fines for state campaign finance violations after i9 Investigation

Bill creates deadline to pay fines for breaking campaign finance rules
Bill creates deadline to pay fines for breaking campaign finance rules(Ethan Stein)
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 9:40 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Candidates, who get penalized for breaking Iowa campaign finance rules, may soon be forced to pay fines within 30 days. It’s one of a handful of changes a new bill would make to the state agency overseeing campaign finance for local and state elections.

House File 638 would establish a deadline for campaigns and other political groups to pay penalties and disclose payments for advertisements on radio or online. Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found the lack of a deadline allowed hundreds of campaigns to not pay fines, collectively worth thousands of dollars, ever.

HF638 by Ethan Stein on Scribd

Zach Goodrich, who is the executive director and legal counsel for the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, said the issue allowed candidates including those for statewide office to stop submitting reports on their donors. He said this bill is supposed to fix the problem.

“Right now there’s no consequence, so that’s the biggest thing,” Goodrich said. “It really gives us some teeth and allows us to enforce campaign and ethics laws.”

According to the bill, the amount of the fine will increase by about 10% if it isn’t paid within 60 days. Then, somebody’s driver’s license would get suspended if there’s a delinquent fine worth more than $250.

Goodrich said this method of enforcement is similar to the system used to enforce court fines. He also said the bill will push the deadline to submit reports from 4:30 pm to 11:59 pm, which he believes is a positive change for campaign volunteers for smaller races because they work full-time jobs. The bill also requires committees to register their campaign with an email and makes changes to rules on gifts to lawmakers from donor

Rep. Austin Harris (R-Moulton), who ran Mariantee Miller-Meek’s (R) campaign for congress in 2020, said in an email the legislation modernizes state code and gives the Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board the tools they need to do their job.