It’s really not that hard.
Pictured to the left is Eric Dick, former Harris County Department of Education Trustee. Dick violated the laws governing campaign finance reporting. After a 2 year investigation he was fined $30,000 and referred to the Texas Bar. If you are running for CCISD Trustee, or are a Treasurer for a candidate, don’t be a Dick. (you can read about Dick here)
In the last election two candidates spent a very large sum of money in their race for Trustee. Scott Bowen spent $20,000, 5 times more than his opponent and did not receive over 50% of the vote. Misty Dawson spent $8000 and lost. These totals do not included the money spent by Harris County Republican Party, which is believed to be $14,000.
Reporting campaign donations and expenditures should be easy especially in a school board race. Unfortunately with the unlimited special interest money coming from the extreme right wing of the Republican Party it can become complicated and ripe for an ethics complaint. Here are some tips to help you avoid having an ethics violation filed against you and your treasurer.
- Report donations and expenditures correctly. It really is easy. Follow the instructions of the Ethics Committee. Include the amount, the name of the donor/recipient, address. Don’t hide donations. Don’t hide expenditures. You will get caught.
- Don’t use your donations for personal items. When caught you may have to pay a fine as well as return the money to your campaign. Your donors money is for your campaign not for lunch or your trip to Heartbreakers. (Local State Representative John Davis spent $1500 of his donors money on a pair of cowboy boots. He eventually was fined and had to return the money to his campaign.)
- Don’t lie. (I know this is hard for some of you) Do not falsify your campaign finance report. Do not lie about the origins of donations. You will be caught. When a complaint is filed against you, don’t lie to the Commission.
- In all literature include the “Political Ad paid for by …….”. This is required in all literature. Simply tell who paid for the mailer or door hanger or who paid for your paid block walkers.
- Be careful of using kids in your literature. If you are going to pose with kids you might want to get their parents permission. That may not be a violation of campaign finance laws but it might end up in a civil court or a well deserved butt kicking.
The Texas Ethics Commission has a number of guides to help you file your reports, run your campaign legally, and keep your and your treasurer from paying fines. Remember, don’t be a Dick.