April 01, 2022

The Commission completed a final round of hearings that grew out of increased enforcement efforts conducted by PDC staff in 2021.

Staff initiated a total of 836 group enforcement actions against candidates, public officials, lobbyists and their employers during the year – the greatest number in recent memory. Those actions involve failure to timely disclose campaign or lobbying activity, or personal financial affairs statements, as required by law.

Each year, PDC staff research which filers are missing disclosure reports, then contacts them to prompt compliance. Most respond. But those who do not are subject to penalties.

A new cycle of group enforcement starts in April.

Plan to raise last-minute contribution reporting threshold

After hearing from campaign treasurers and others, the Commission voted to start expedited rulemaking aimed at raising the threshold for last-minute contribution (LMC) reporting. The goal is to raise the threshold to $1,500, so that it exceeds the current $1,000 maximum contribution limit for legislative and local candidates.

The law requires additional reporting of contributions of $1,000 or more given within 21 days of a general election and within seven days of a primary election. The threshold also applies to donors who give lesser amounts during the period that in aggregate reach the $1,000 mark.

As the Commission has adjusted the contribution limit for individuals and organizations giving to local and legislative campaigns to account for inflation, the limit has risen to the point that it now matches the LMC threshold.

Donors wishing to boost a campaign in its final days often choose to give the maximum, triggering the special LMC reports. This creates an additional reporting burden for campaigns with little benefit for the public, according to those who addressed the Commission, since those contributions are also disclosed a week or two later on the campaign’s deposit report.

Under the law, any rule changes for this year’s primary and general elections must be adopted and take effect before June 30. Because of that deadline, the only option for the Commission to act in time is to use the expedited rulemaking process. That allows the PDC to propose a rule and – if there are no objections – adopt it after 45 days, without conducting a public hearing.

May 16 date for calculating certain contribution limits

The Commission set May 16, 2022, as the date for calculation of contribution limits that are tied to registered voter counts in legislative districts. It’s a practice that’s been employed before during redistricting years, which occurs every 10 years.

The law sets limits on the amount that political parties and caucus committees can contribute to legislative candidates based on the number of voters in a legislative district, as counted from the most recent general election. But voter registration numbers can’t be calculated in the year following redistricting, since no general election has yet been held in the newly created districts.

May 16 is the start of candidate filing week, and that date will allow the PDC to obtain voter registration counts from the Office of the Secretary of State. Those counts are based on precinct boundary lines submitted by county auditors.

Enforcement stats

PDC staff closed 11 cases involving complaints from the public between Feb. 15 and March 15. An additional 45 group enforcement cases, initiated by PDC staff, were closed during the same time period.

As of March 15, there were 35 active cases either under investigation for a possible violation or undergoing an assessment of facts to determine if a full investigation will commence.

Next regular Commission meeting: April 28, 2022