Alabamians, like most Americans, want transparency when it comes to politics. Part of that means being able to see who’s funding political candidates. Which is exactly why political candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) are required to file campaign finance reports.
But sometimes those reports aren’t filed on time, or at all. Which is why the 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 act went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle and since that time Secretary of State John Merrill‘s office has issued 1,166 penalties or warnings for a total amount of $197,657.84. Thus far, $102,249.05 has been paid. The money not yet paid has either been waived by the Alabama Ethics Commission or the office is still waiting 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. Most reports are due by 12:00 p.m. on the 2nd of each month. Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the previous month.”
Accordingly, penalty amounts increase as the number of late reports increases from the candidate. Additionally, the first report a candidate files late, but within 48 hours of the date the report is due, the committee is given a warning that does not count against them or require a fine be paid. Further, the code specifically states that warnings are not violations of the law.
In addition to the warning process, committees have the ability to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission. Of the 1,166 penalties and warnings, 166 have been overturned.
Fines paid by committees to the Secretary of State’s office is deposited directly into the state general fund.