Pinned to a bulletin board inside the office of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is a list of names most people who run for office would like to avoid. Being on the list comes with a punishment of fines and a little embarrassment.
The list contains the names of candidates for state offices who have failed to file at least one campaign report. It could be for a campaign just completed or one from several years ago. But if a candidate is on the list, they better get ready to take out the checkbook.
One of those is Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves, who still had a report due from his 2002 Legislature campaign. Graves served as a state representative for many years before term limits removed him from office in 2004. He was elected to the Oklahoma County court bench in 2006.
“Frankly, I forgot,” Graves said. “I missed the deadline some way. I guess I didn’t write it down so that’s probably why I didn’t file it.”
WITHIN AN HOUR
Graves said he turned in his report within an hour of being contacted by Oklahoma Gazette.
Feb. 2 was the deadline for candidates from previous elections to turn in their reports. Candidates from the 2008 election cycle had only to submit partial reports, while candidates who still had an open campaign committee were required to hand in a quarterly report even if there was no activity.
Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes said a candidate can leave a campaign committee open for six years. The Feb. 2 deadline would have been the final one for candidates from 2002.
“When you are not in an election cycle “¦ you still have quarterly (reports),” Hughes said. “If you sign up for a yearly report, you agree not to have more than $500 activity, then you would file annually, but you would still have one due Feb. 2.”
Graves was not the only sitting office holder who missed the deadline. Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Choctaw, and Reps. Shane Jett, R-Tecumseh, and Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo, made the list. Jett and Roan had reports due from the 2008 election, while Aldridge had one outstanding from 2006. The legislators blamed their tardiness on computers.
“I submitted the C-1R (report) on Feb. 2 by the report due deadline,” Jett said. “I clicked on the ‘submit report to Ethics Commission’ button and went to bed. I didn’t know the Ethics Commission hadn’t received the report until I received their certified notification letter in the mail this morning. I checked my computer and, sure enough, it was still listed as a ‘pending report.'”
Roan’s legislative office said the representative’s campaign treasurer thought he had submitted the report, clicking the “submit” button on his computer as well.
Hughes said this is a common mistake.
“If we see they’ve got a pending report, that’s what usually has happened,” she said. “They think they’ve got it ready and they think they’ve submitted it, but never pressed the button.”
Nonetheless, it still goes down as late and the fines start to mount. It’s $100 a day for every day the report is late, up to a maximum fine of $1,000.
“It’s an automatic assessment under the statute,” Hughes said. “They can ask for a hearing. The hearing officer can do away with the fine or they can reduce it.”
Aldridge had other issues with the computer system.
“There is a software problem that is causing the electronic filing program not to recognize my password,” he said. “As always, if they fine me for being late, I will pay the fine as I have done once before in my six years of filing reports.” “Scott Cooper
State candidates failing to file campaign report due Feb. 2
2002 election year
Bill GravesRobert Kerr (deceased)
2004 election year
Doug MillerJeff RabonEarnest WareRay Young
2006 election year
Cliff AldridgeBret BurnsDon DavisJames NealGreg NelsonDerrick OttJeffrey PottsMichael Starega
2008 election year
Jeff ApplekampChristie BreedloveGeorge BullockCason CarterTommy CosgroveKyle CoulterConnie DodsonJonathan EcholsMaryanne FlippoGreg FrederickDaniel GambillJesse GuardiolaChad HawkinsMike IdlemanHarold JacksonRobert JeromeShane JettPierce JonesSebastian LantosDonnie LewisKyle LovelessMonroe NicholsSean OliverGreg PiattPaul Roan
Source: Oklahoma Ethics Commission