Campaign finance laws state that the legislative session constitutes a “blackout” period, during which a candidate is not allowed to collect or solicit donations.
Documents submitted on behalf of Ritz’s campaign showed multiple donations received during session. The superintendent says this was a clerical error and that her team is working to correct it and submit an amended form.
“The contributions that were given were before the period, but I think what we have here may be a deposit date was given, instead of the actual date of when the checks were actually issued,” Ritz told the press Friday morning.
Tony Cook at the Indianapolis Star reports that, should election officials discover Ritz is in fact in violation of campaign laws, she could face a hefty penalty:
An Indianapolis Star review of Ritz’s campaign finance filings also found that her campaign for superintendent of public instruction received more than $82,000 in contributions during the 2013 legislative session, mostly from the Indiana Democratic Party and PACs affiliated with the Indiana State Teachers Association.
The penalty for violating the law is a civil fine of up to twice the amount of any contributions received, plus any costs incurred by the state’s election division. In Ritz’s case, that could be up to $180,000 — more than the $112,220 her campaign currently has in its bank account.
The Indiana Election Commission generally requires a formal complaint to be filed before it will take enforcement action. No complaints had been filed as of Friday afternoon. […]
Ritz campaign spokesman Pat Terrell said the 2015 contributions in question were actually received before the legislative session, but weren’t deposited until after the session began. He said he didn’t have enough information to immediately address questions about the 2013 contributions.
Ritz’s explanation may not be enough to satisfy the law’s requirements.
Democrat Glenda Ritz’s campaign only managed to raise $30,000 in the first half of 2015, and more than a quarter of those donations may have been collected in violation of state election law.
According to financial documents submitted to the state earlier this week, the state superintendent accepted 28 campaign donations between January 6th and February 23rd, totaling more than $8,000.
But Indiana law prohibits a candidate for state office – which includes those running for state superintendent or governor – from soliciting or accepting contributions during the legislative session.
The session this year ran from January 6th to April 29th. No other gubernatorial candidate received donations during the prohibited period.
RTV6 reports a breakdown of the potentially illegal donations:
- Twenty-two individual contributions between Jan. 6 through Feb. 23.
- Four contributions from labor groups from Jan. 6 through Feb. 23.
- Two contributions from political action committees on Jan. 6
Ritz’s campaign could not be reached for comment.