Where’s the money?

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 20, 2004

LINDEN – Candidates for municipal office had until 4:30 p.m. today to file their final campaign financial disclosures required prior to the Aug. 24 election.

Known as the “10-5 Day Pre-Election Report,” the Fair Campaign Practices Act documents are required by state law to be filed with the probate judge.

Probate Judge Cindy Neilson said Thursday was the deadline candidates had to meet with their 5-day reports.

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At 5 p.m., all Demopolis mayoral candidates except Mitchell Congress had filed the required forms.

Congress, on Aug. 5, had filed a political committee designation form, which was required within five days of qualifying or within five days of reaching the reportable threshold – $1,000 for municipal candidates. He also filed a waiver report stating he had not met the minimum reporting threshold.

“I think the campaign finance laws are real important because they not only allow the public to see how a candidate is financed and how a candidate has spent his or her money, but it tells you a lot about how a candidate would govern,” said Secretary of State Nancy Worely.

“If good reporting with strong campaign finance laws is in place, it’s a good way to inform the public literally about who the candidates’ strongest supporters – who they are and what they stand for,” she said.

Worely’s office oversees campaign finance reports for federal, state and district elections.

“The reports not only inform the public but they allow opponents to see where the money comes from. It gives everyone a better understanding of a candidate’s standing and influences,” she said.

In Demopolis city council reporting, Thomas Moore and Woody Collins had both filed termination reports. Facing no opposition, both councilmen have been issued certificates of election by the city council.

In District 2, Charles E. Jones filed a barrage of paperwork on Aug. 13, including the report of no campaign expenditures and no campaign contributions.

Incumbent Councilman Willard “Peanut” Williams on Aug. 19 filed a report stating there no expenditures or contributions above the reporting threshold.

Freddie Charleston had not filed a report.

In District 3, Melvin Yelverton reported no contributions and expenditures of $204 to AMA Designs for signs and $120 to the “Black Belt paper” of $120 for advertising.

John Wallace’s only report was filed July 23 showing a $500 contribution from himself and expenses of $50 to the City of Demopolis.

In District 5, incumbent Mike Baker filed reports on Aug. 10 reporting non-itemized expenses of $65 and no contributions.

Neither challengers Jack Cooley nor H.C. “Sonny” Weaver had filed reports.

Worley said although the campaign finance laws did have legal challenges, the law still had some teeth if probate judges decided to report those who failed to meet reporting deadlines.

“It doesn’t have as much teeth as I’d like it to have, but it does have some teeth. If, for example, you don’t file reports and identify sources of income, you can be convicted of a felony,” she said. “There have been some people who have been removed from office and disqualified for not filing their reports.”

Worley said such challenges, however, don’t happen often on the local level.

“It takes money to go to court, and an opponent could press the issue or the attorney general or district attorney could prosecute,” she said.

Worley said probate judges could refer the matter to their district attorney.