SAN ANGELO, TX — State Law requires candidates for county office to file campaign finance reports periodically. Incumbent candidate Commissioner Bill Ford of Precinct 4 is missing the last two reports.
This cycle, candidates were required by the State of Texas Ethics Commission to file at least four reports. The first was due January 18 and it contains donations and campaign expenses up to and including December 31, 2021. The next report was due 30 days prior to the election — or from January 1 until January 20, 2022, and was due January 31. The final report was called the “8-day Pre-election Report” and it covered February expenses up and until the report was due 8 days prior to the election on February 22, 2022. A final campaign Runoff Report is due May 16. Candidates not making the runoff file a final report closing their respective campaign.
Table - When Reports are Due
- January 18 - All contributions and expenses up to and including December 31, 2022
- January 31 - All contributions and expenses up to and including January 20, 2022
- February 22 - The 8-day Pre-election Report
- May 16 - Runoff Report
Commissioner Bill Ford made his first and only report for this cycle on time on January 18. In the filing, he reported $100 in campaign donations and $750 in expenses. That’s the last time the county elections office has heard from him. That means Ford has failed to submit two finance reports since January 18.
There is a provision in State law that allows candidates to skip most of these filing reports if the total income or expenses to the campaign do not exceed $940 (it was $930 in years prior). But the candidate must declare their intention to file this way before the election cycle. Ford did not.
We called Ford and asked about the missing filings. Ford said he had been very busy and forgot. He promised to get the reports filed as soon as possible.
State law sets forth penalties for failure to file the campaign finance reports. The fine is $500 for a late report for Ford’s missing January 31, 2022 report. The 8-day Pre-election Report has stiffer penalties. According to the Ethics Commission, the fine is $500 for the first day the report is late and $100 for each day thereafter that the report is late, up to $10,000. There is an additional $2,500 fine against a candidate whose report is more than 30 days late.
Laws and fines are not effective unless someone enforces the law. Texas law allows for any citizen to file a criminal complaint with a local district attorney, a civil complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission, or civil action against a candidate or officeholder. Any penalty stemming from a complaint are accessed against the candidate or officeholder, not the appointed campaign treasurer.
Campaign finance reports provide the voters a level of transparency about each candidate. From the reports, voters can learn who is backing each candidate. Ford's opponent in the May 24 runoff Primary Election is Shawn Nanny. Nanny's campaign finance reports appear to be in order and filed timely. The candidate failing to file reports in a timely manner may give that delinquent candidate a competitive edge as he or she can see who is behind their opponent while the other candidate is forced to guess about his opponent's support.
Tom Green County Republican Party Chair, who organizes the local Republican primary, said he has no authority to enforce campaign finance report filings even though Ford is as Republican.
“He doesn’t file campaign finance reports with us, that’s the State of Texas,” County GOP Chairman Bruce Burkett said.