March 24, 2022

The Public Disclosure Commission today completed a final round of hearings aimed at annual enforcement of state law that requires regular reporting to the PDC by candidates, public officials, lobbyists and their employers.

Agency staff in 2021 initiated 836 group enforcement actions involving failure to timely disclose campaign or lobbying activity, or personal financial affairs statements.

“Thanks to the hard work of PDC staff, this past year marks the broadest reach of our group enforcement efforts in recent memory,” said PDC Executive Director Peter Frey Lavallee. 

“It’s all about informing the public through timely disclosure of campaign and lobbying activities, and the financial interests of public officials,” said Commission Chair Fred Jarrett.

Each year, the PDC launches a group enforcement process, in which staff research which filers are missing disclosure reports, then contacts them to prompt compliance.

Most delinquent filers respond and submit reports using the PDC’s online electronic filing systems. But those who do not are subject to fines. The Commission can assess penalties up to $10,000 for the most serious violations.

“Candidates, lobbyists and public officials should be aware of what their obligations are under the law,” Jarrett said. “Our staff is always ready to assist filers in getting it right.

“But those who either fail to educate themselves about their responsibility or who willfully ignore their obligations must be held to account.”

That process involves a series of actions. Noncompliant filers can resolve their error through a statement of understanding – in which they acknowledge the mistake and agree to pay a fine. 

Failing that, the next step for relatively minor offenses is often a brief enforcement hearing at which a filer can address the presiding Commissioner or submit a written statement of explanation. The maximum penalty at a brief enforcement hearing is $1,000.

Filers can appeal a brief enforcement hearing decision to the full Commission. More serious violations are also heard by the full Commission.

Group enforcement efforts in 2021 resulted in:

  • 224 statements of understanding
  • 465 brief enforcement hearings
  • 7 full hearings before the Commission

Group enforcement will begin a new cycle in April 2022, when the Commission will begin hearing cases involving overdue monthly lobbying reports.