Election Board makes example out of losing TSC candidate over late campaign finance report
Election board issues first fine for late campaign finance report, say practice will continue. TSC candidate: I'm the ‘scapegoat.’ Plus, conservative Club for Growth comes out swinging against Daniels
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ELECTION BOARD ISSUES FIRST FINES FOR CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT DELAYS
Carl Krieger walked out of a Tippecanoe County Election Board meeting Thursday morning, $50 lighter and a lesson or two learned, sure of one thing in the final, costly chapter of a failed bid for a Tippecanoe School Corp. school board seat.
“I’m sure not running, again,” Krieger said.
In a first for Tippecanoe County, the Election Board fined two candidates from the 2022 campaign cycle – Krieger and former Fairfield Township Trustee Taletha Coles – for either turning in campaign finance reports after the deadline or, in the case of Coles, ignoring the deadlines completely.
The move represented a new hard line on the campaign finance reporting schedule – one that even made board members a bit hesitant about the precedent they were about to set.
Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush, one of the three members of the Election Board, said her staff had been working the candidates who had either made mistakes in the reports required of those who have campaign funds or had forgotten or blown off filing from previous elections.
Roush said she was convinced that the 2022 campaign cycle needed to be a demarcation, when the county told candidates they had to file – and file according to the schedule set by state law – or be penalized.
“Somewhere, we have to say that this is what state statute says and that we’re going to follow it,” Roush said.
Krieger asked for a hearing Thursday after he received word that an election campaign finance report, due in mid-October, was 11 days late when he hand-delivered it to the county election office on Nov. 1. At $50 a day, prescribed in Indiana law, that came to a $550 fine.
Krieger told Election Board members that he ran for TSC school board because neighbors persuaded him to do it. He said he didn’t know much about campaigning. He said he bought yard signs and other campaign materials, primarily with his own money, but had been rooting for Holly Keckler, the candidate who won the District 1 seat in a three-way, non-partisan contest. He said he didn’t know much about campaign finance and assorted deadlines – something he thought some of the people who’d encouraged him to run were tracking for him. When he turned in his financial statements a week-and-a-half late, but still a week before Election Day, he figured things were fine.
“I thought it was done,” Krieger said. “Then, I lost the next week, and I was like, Sweet. At least the person I wanted to win won. That means I don’t have to go to school board meetings, and I get to spend more time in my hot tub.”
Krieger said that if he’d received a note that he owed $20, he would have paid it and moved along. “I don’t want to spend $550 more on this,” Krieger said.
Kent Moore, an Election Board member and former attorney for Lafayette School Corp., said he was uncomfortable making someone who’d stepped up to run for school board – “A thankless job, in my opinion,” he said – pay $550 despite making good faith efforts to make things right. State law also allowed the board to waive or reduced the fine.
Randy Vonderheide, the third member of the Election Board, asked, though, about the precedent set by waiving the fine if the county was going to get serious about violations.
In the end, the board agreed on a $50 fine.
With Coles, the election staff reported that the former township trustee had neglected to file reports since before the May 2022 primary and that the ones she turned in dating back to her initial run in 2018 included discrepancies in what happened to her campaign funds. (Roush also said the Election Board received a report from a former township employee that Coles might have used township money for coasters, pens and other campaign materials, an issue that she said would have to be investigated and taken up in a later meeting.) Coles lost a three-candidate Democratic primary in May 2022, getting 11% of the vote.
On Thursday, the Election Board settled on a $1,000 fine, the largest allowed under state law, for Coles. Moore mentioned that he wasn’t sure the Election Board fine would rise to the top of Coles’ priorities, given her other legal issues. Coles faces a June trial on more than 40 counts of fraud, theft, perjury and other charges tied to how she ran the trustee’s office before resigning under pressure in October.
Coles did not attend Thursday’s meeting and did not immediately respond to calls afterward.
Krieger said after the meeting that he’d hoped his fine would be waived, but he said he didn’t think that was probable. So, he said he was better with $50 than with 11 times that much.
Krieger said he felt as if he was “kind of the guinea pig and ultimately was the scapegoat,” as the county chose this election year to draw the line.
“If it ends up that me paying this means they hold other people more accountable for campaign finance errors, then it’s worth it,” Krieger said. “However, if next year they don’t fine every person that is a minute late and they don’t confirm that every person that ran didn’t spend over the bar requiring submission of the paperwork, then I’m not going to be happy. It’s not my fault they clearly weren’t following their own policies in years past. But now that I’ve been made an example of, they have put the onus on themselves to keep it up.”
Krieger said he wouldn’t be among those persuading others to run for office. “It’s too much of a pain in the butt,” he said, “and if you’re inexperienced and miss a step, it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth.”
For the record: The next campaign finance filing date for the 2022 cycle is noon Wednesday, Jan. 18.
CONSERVATIVE GROUP COMES OUT SWINGING AT MITCH DANIELS
Days after Mitch Daniels told Based in Lafayette he was considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2024, now that his time over as Purdue president, the Club for Growth Action, a national group touting the campaigns of conservatives, revealed that it would start airing a 60-second ad challenging the former Indiana governor’s conservative bona fides.
The ad, titled “Forgot” and first reported Thursday by Indianapolis station WISH, calls Daniels “The Man, The Myth,” “an old guard Republican” who “forgot how to fight … after 50 years of big government, big pharma and big academia.” It paints Daniels as willing to “cave to big-spending Republicans.”
Former U.S. Rep. David McIntosh, Club for Growth Action president, told WISH reporter Brady Gibson: “As even Mitch Daniels admits, his brand of Republicanism is out of date. … Club for Growth Action will spend whatever it takes to ensure voters know his real record.”
The ad buy comes before Daniels has made a decision about whether he’d get into the contest.
Reached Thursday afternoon, Daniels said he had no comment.
In a survey of 1,000 registered voters in December by Bellwether Research, former Daniels pollster Christine Matthews reported that Daniels had a clear edge among other potential Republican candidates – including U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, Attorney General Todd Rokita and former U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth – if he jumped into the Senate race.
Matthews weighed in on social media after the Club for Growth ad popped up Thursday.
But the Club for Growth Action’s play was an indication that getting through a primary might not be as simple as getting into the race.
Mark Lubbers, a friend and longtime adviser to Daniels, said Thursday that he hadn’t talked with Daniels since the Club for Growth Action spot surfaced in news accounts and on YouTube.
“Mitch is keeping his own counsel,” Lubbers said. “The most he will disclose is that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday he leans against; on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday he leans for. If anything, this McIntosh ad will make his running more likely. It’s a gross distortion. It’s personal. And it insults Indiana, whose reputation soared higher under Gov. Daniels than ever before. …
“His conservative record is crystal clear — and not some fairy tale world that David McIntosh lives in, but the real world of running a state,” Lubbers said. “A majority of Americans are ready to embrace conservative policy, but loser grifters like Club for Growth keep making conservatism ugly and unlikable. At some point genuine conservatives will have to go to war with these bully goons.”
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