Do You Properly Report Sample Ballot Expenses To MEC?

Early Friday morning, I read my daily subscription feed on Missouri Scout.  Under “Bits,” I read that St. Louis City Alderman Antonio French had been fined $45 by Missouri Ethics Commission. I clicked on the link to the MEC Consent Order and Findings of Fact and nearly had a heart attack.

In 2013, French’s campaign committee paid poll workers to distribute sample ballots paid for by someone else. He reported the poll worker payments to MEC but did not report the payments as Direct Expenditures to support or oppose the candidates or ballot issues on the distributed sample ballots.

Are we (ward/township/county political party committees), as well as other PACs and candidate committees, required to report all the candidates and ballot issues supported or opposed on sample ballots in addition to reporting the payment to the printer? Even if it’s under $100?

I called MEC to find out. It turns out many of us, if not most of us, with political party-related committees in St. Louis and some current/former candidate committees, are in violation of the law, have been for years, and need to amend many reports from 2012 to present, with regards to expenditures for sample ballots, mailings, poll workers, etcetera. The requirement is found at…

130.041.1(7) RSMo: The amount of expenditures for or against a candidate or ballot measure during the period covered and the cumulative amount of expenditures for or against that candidate or ballot measure, with each candidate being listed by name, mailing address and office sought. For the purpose of disclosure reports, expenditures made in support of more than one candidate or ballot measure or both shall be apportioned reasonably among the candidates or ballot measure or both. In apportioning expenditures to each candidate or ballot measure, political party committees and political action committees need not include expenditures for maintaining a permanent office, such as expenditures for salaries of regular staff, office facilities and equipment or other expenditures not designed to support or oppose any particular candidates or ballot measures; however, all such expenditures shall be listed pursuant to subdivision (4) of this subsection;

If you are/were a Candidate between 2012 to Present that reported paying for sample ballots, mailings, or lit drops supporting more than your candidacy, or campaign workers to deliver/distribute same, and you did not declare Direct Expenditures made to support or oppose other candidates or ballot issues, you need to amend your reports.

If you are/were a Political Party Committee or Party-Related Political Action Committee between 2012 to Present that paid for sample ballots, mailings, or lit drops supporting or opposing candidates or ballot issues, or campaign workers to deliver/distribute same, and you did not declare those payments as Direct Expenditures made to support or oppose candidates or ballot issues, you need to amend your reports.

In the case of a printing bill paid for by a Party Central Committee- such as ward sample ballots for a General Election– the Central Committee should have reported the Direct Expenditures.

We cannot merely report these payments as Itemized Expenditures. This is where a lot of us screwed up. We reported but on one form instead of the required two forms.

We cannot merely report these payments as Non-Itemized Expenditures. This is where others screwed up. The form says you can report expenditures under $100 by category without itemization. In reality, you have to itemize payments for campaign workers AND election-related printing as Direct Expenditures for or against candidates and ballot issues.

We cannot file Limited Activity Reports if we made a Direct Expenditure of any amount. From my conversation with MEC Staff, I get the impression that MEC is very unhappy with all the Limited Activity Reports being filed.

We cannot report Direct Expenditures as a lump sum for “sample ballots” or “our candidates.” We have to report all the names, addresses, and apportioned amounts for each candidate or ballot issue.

032015ballot382310_378855845554977_1271693563_nPersonally, I am confused about apportioning a printing expenditure among the candidates and ballot issues supported or opposed. MEC says if your sample ballot supports 10 candidates and costs $100, then you have made a Direct Expenditure of $10 per candidate, each to be listed by name, address and dollar amount.

The law does not take into account that the printed material may have content unrelated to those candidates or ballot issues. 7th Ward Independent Democrats sample ballots contain information on upcoming events and membership. We’re not the only ward organization that uses sample ballots for more than Election Day information.

In some cases, non-candidate and non-ballot issue content takes up 2/3 of the sample ballot. The law, however, does not acknowledge such a variable.

Amend Reports. Itemize everything. Declare the Direct Expenditures no matter how absurd the dollar figure. Never again file a Limited Activity Report. That’s my plan.

— Marie Ceselski, 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman

FINALS: 2017 STL Mayor Poll

voteboxVote once before 6 pm Wednesday, April 8th.

Round 4, 2017 STL Mayor Poll

Vote once. Top two winners advance to Finals against Gregory F.X. Daly and Tishaura Jones.