Braintree is reminding election candidates that the deadline for their campaign finance reports is approaching quickly, and there are penalties for failing to turn them in on time.
Regardless of whether the candidates are running challenged or not, and regardless of whether they have a campaign committee, everyone running for election has to file a report by Oct. 31 with the town clerk.
“It’s a state law. It’s really about transparency in elections,” said Town Clerk Joseph Powers. “Folks need to account for where they are getting their money and how they are spending it. This is the transparent event that allows the general public to see who is giving money to who and how it’s being used. It’s certainly not a new process.”
The finance report must include all information from either the start of the year for incumbents, or from the date of the creation of their election committee, and must include all details from that date up through Oct. 21.
Powers said he’s been posting reports online as they become available, so that residents can review what their candidates are spending money on before they vote for anyone.
Other than that, the reports don’t get much vetting.
“I examine them to make sure the dates all match up, that they made the basic requirements of the time period…but for the most part of everything is filed and is in good order, it remains a file in public record,” Powers said.
The only problem with the report is if it’s not filed on time. It’s something Powers said he knows from experience.
For every day a candidate is late after the Oct. 31 deadline, he or she can be fined $25 a day.
Powers was two days late in turning in his report when he ran for mayor in 2007, and thus had to pay the fine from his own account – as the fine cannot come from raised monies.
“I’m hoping these candidates will learn from the sins of my past and the errors of my ways,” Powers said. “This is serious stuff, and it’s taken very seriously by my office and by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. We’re trying to put as much info out there as possible and reminders; the rest is up to the committees.”
All town elected officials must subsequently file a year-end report with the state with similar information, also for transparency reasons.
“I’m hoping they are taking it seriously,” Powers said, noting that although others like himself have faced fines, they have never been of a significant amount. All in all, he said, it’s pretty simple. “This is your requirement and these are your obligations.”