Intended to reduce the potential for corruption, or even the appearance of corruption, campaign finance laws are a necessary part of modern elections.
They’re an important component in creating political transparency. Many voters want to know who’s funding any given candidate as they believe money has the potential to corrupt them and to encourage them to serve their own interests, or the interests of their campaign donors, rather than the public.
Which is why the Alabama state legislature passed act 2015-495 in 2015 that allows the Alabama Secretary of State’s office to issue fines when Principle Campaign Committees (PCCs) or Political Action Committees (PACs) don’t file their monthly, weekly, or daily campaign finance reports on time. The fines are serve as a deterrent to filing elections late and keeping pertinent donor information away from voters.
The law went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle, and thus far the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office has issued 1,180 penalties for a total amount of $201,893.28. To date, the office has collected $106,531.92 of those fines, leaving $95,361.36 in the balance. The fines not yet paid have either been waived by the Alabama Ethics Commission or the Office is still attempting to collect the funds from the committee.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office:
Penalties are issued to any committee that does not file their campaign finance report by midnight on the date the report is due. Generally, reports are due on the second business day of each month. Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the previous month. Penalty amounts increase as the number of late reports increase from the committee. Additionally, the first report a committee files late, but within 48 hours of the date the report is due, the committee is issued a warning which does not count against them or require a fine be paid. Further, the Act specifically states that warnings are not violations of the law.
Of the penalties that have yet to be paid, 20 Committees have exceeded the statutorily prescribed period to pay the fines, which allows Secretary John Merrill to initiate legal action to recover those funds for the people of the state of Alabama. That process is currently underway.
Fines paid by committees are deposited directly into the State of Alabama General Fund.