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Disclosure deadline for candidates next month

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The deadline for candidates in the 2008 election to file their first financial disclosure report is June 30, according to local election officials.

Candidates seeking county and state positions have four weeks to file an initial financial disclosure form with the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration. A grace period for late filers will be granted until July 7.

"These need to be postmarked by midnight [on July 7] to be considered on time," said Board of Elections Clerk Lillie Suder. "If they don't file, it is reported to the [State] Ethics Commission."

Following the June 30 disclosure report, candidates are required to give additional reports on Sept. 30, October 25, and Dec. 31. If either the July 15 primary, or the Nov. 4 election produce runoffs, disclosure reports will be due six days before the runoff dates set for Aug. 5, and Dec. 2, respectively.

Late fillers will be fined $50 by the State Ethics Commission after each late report, and an additional $25 will be added to the fine, once the report is 15 days late.

In the report, any contributions or expenditures over $101 must be itemized in detail. Donations much not exceed $2,300 per person per election, and for every donation, a candidate must explain who donated the money, the donor's occupation, the date the money was received, and the method paid. For expenditures, the candidate must detail how much was spent, what method of payment was used, and for what was the money used.

Rick Thompson, executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission, said the commission takes late filing "very seriously." He said that as of Thursday, the State Ethics Commission has levied more than $180,000 in fines against committees and individuals around the state, who have failed to properly disclose their campaign contributions and spending.

"It's a requirement to file a disclosure report, because the entire Ethics in Government Act is based on disclosure," said Thompson. "It's important for people to know who is supporting these candidates and what they are spending that money on."

Thompson said the State Ethics Commission makes sure candidates "are carrying their money forward from one report to the next," and not exceeding their contribution limits. He said the commission also looks to see that the money is being spent on legitimate campaign expenses and not being converted into undocumented cash.

"A lot of times, people associate how well they deal with their campaign funds with how they will deal with public funds," said Thompson. "If an elected official is not able to file on time ... and the forms don't make sense ... that shows how serious they are about the laws that are in place."

Disclosure reports for seated elected officials seeking re-election were filed on March 31, and are available for public viewing at the Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration office in Jonesboro.