State-mandated finance reports allow us a preview of how school board and city council candidates manage their campaign funds and handle transparency.
Candidates and officeholders across Texas are required by state law to provide voters with records of their contributions, expenditures and loans twice during the campaign — 30 days prior to election day on April 6 and eight days prior to election day on April 28. This system is based on disclosure, said Ian Steusloff, general counsel with the Texas Ethics Commission.
“There is a criminal misdemeanor offense for failing to file required reports, and the Texas Ethics Commission also has authority to assess fines for reporting violations,” he said. Violations include failure to submit, late submissions, incorrect reports and filing corrections after deadline.
Four candidates for Board of Trustees did not file both finance reports. At the LISD candidate forum on April 20, candidates were asked about their reports, to which those who hadn’t filed yet assured moderators they would file the required documents.
Jon Hanna and Eric Parker, while agreeing to get their finances filed, have yet to submit either form. Colleen Shaw dropped out of the race unofficially the day before the forum and also did not file either form. Shari Chambers filed her first report late but did not file the 8 Days Prior form.
Gale Wilson for Lewisville City Council Place 1 did not file her initial finance report but did submit the second finance report, including expenses that should have been reported on the 30 Days Prior form.
Each finance report covers separate periods of time — the first form asks for contributions and expenditures that occurred through March 28, the second starting on March 29 and going through April 26, Steusloff said. Another semi-annual report covering the remaining time in the election will be due from candidates and officeholders in July.
Candidates not intending to exceed $500 in contributions or expenditures may fill out page 2 on their treasurer appointment forms declaring a modified report, meaning they will not have to fill out campaign finance reports. To “declare modified” candidates would need to fill out the form prior to campaigning.
City secretary Julie Heinze and Lewisville ISD’s Jeanne Arnold confirmed that no candidate filed a modified report.
“There’s ethics issues involved. [Lawmakers] want to make sure that they’re not taking donations or spending money that they’re not supposed to be spending,” Heinze said.
While the Texas Ethics Commission has the power to go after those who do not abide by the campaign filing system, 99 percent of commission enforcement actions are complaint-driven, Steusloff said.
Here is a snapshot of and links to the finance reports that were filed:
Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees Candidates
Peter Rabner was one of the candidates who did not have his finance report filed by the time of the forum. The following day, after being asked about his finance report, Rabner filed his 30 Day Prior. His 8 Days Prior was turned in a day early. Both forms reported no expenses or contributions.
Kristi Hassett’s reported 30 Days Prior filing does not include expenditures $100 and less in the total expenditures, making the campaign balance seem $18 short. Her subtotals do not reflect the totals listed on the cover page in the 8 Days Prior. A contribution made on April 27, right before deadline, could be responsible for some discrepancies.
Sandra Weinstein provided receipts with her 30 Days Prior, which isn’t necessary. Her contribution balance is zero, however the loan she gave to her campaign would count as a contribution, making her balance $942 when expenditures are subtracted. Unchecked boxes in the expenditures from personal funds schedule indicate she does not intend to reimburse herself with political contributions. Weinstein’s 8 Days Prior also doesn’t include the loan in the contribution balance, sitting at zero.
Shari Chambers filed her 30 Days Prior 12 days past deadline. Chambers reported no contributions and $1,163 in expenditures. Her campaign balance is reported as zero. She used a credit card to pay for the website and advertising expenses. She used personal funds to pay for printing expenses and intends to reimburse the funds with political contributions. After a comment from Chambers regarding her missing 8 Days Prior, see below, Jeanne Arnold confirmed the administration office has not received the form as of May 9.
Tracy Scott Miller turned in his 30 Day Prior four days late but his 8 Days Prior on time. He doesn’t report his campaign balance on either filing. He does not include his political expenditures from personal funds in his total expenditures. His expenditures from personal funds should have been documented on Schedule G, which would show where he spent the funds, a breakdown of the expenses and the purpose of the expenses. It would also determine whether or not he intended to reimburse himself with political contributions, which cannot be corrected later on. Miller re-uses five pages from his 30 Day Prior in his 8 Day Prior to note expenditures from political contributions. The 30 Day Prior accounts for a separate period of time in finances than the 8 Day Prior.
City Council Candidates
Jon Dahlvig turned in both his 30 Day Prior and 8 Day Prior the day before deadline. Dahlvig loans his campaign $372 but does not mark it in his outstanding loans totals. He did add it to his contribution balance but shouldn’t have since he did not check the box in the loan schedule stating personal funds were deposited into political account, which cannot be corrected at a later date. After checking the balance of $382.81, including the loan plus political contributions of $125 minus $144.19 for expenditures, the balance total is missing $30 at $352.81. He did not have any additional loans, expenditures or contributions in the following report, with the balance still sitting at $382.81.
Bob Troyer also turned in his reports the day before deadline. His subtotals and totals add up on his 30 Day Prior and his 8 Day Prior. He marks his loan as personal funds going into campaign account and records it in the correct totals.
Gale Wilson did not file her 30 Day Prior and did not declare modified. Her 8 Day Prior includes dates from the length of her campaign when the purchases made on March 27 should have been claimed on the 30 Day Prior. Wilson duplicates her expenditures, writing them as both expenditures from her personal funds and by credit card when only one schedule should be filled out. She has no political contributions.
Carolyn Wright reported $150 in contributions and $150 in expenditures on her 30 Day Prior. Her contribution balance shows she still has $150 on hand though. Wright’s subtotals do not include any contributions. Her expenditure and contribution schedules confirm her balance should be zero. One contribution made on April 6 should be reported on the 8 Day Prior. Her balance on her 8 Days Prior does reflect her reported expenses and contributions. Wright also had a non-monetary political contribution in the form of website design and maintenance.
TJ Gilmore turned in his 30 Day Prior two days before deadline. His contribution balance should report $847.03 with the given contributions and expenditures but instead reports $2299.80. Some of the additional funds come from an existing campaign balance of $1377.77, the rest is the contributions of $50 or less in the amount of $75 he did not include in his total contributions. Gilmore’s 8 Days Prior shows no additional contributions and expenditures of $1123.71 since the previous report. His balance reflects the 30 Day Prior balance less the expenditures.
Elena Claros also has a balance that does not align with her reported contributions minus the total political expenditures on her 30 Day Prior. She reported $500 in contributions, $556.63 in expenditures and $230.80 in her balance. This discrepancy comes in part from not adding her total political contributions of $50 or less, which was $150, to her total political contributions. From there the discrepancy is due to $75.32 pulled from personal funds that has not been repaid from campaign balance yet. After adding together her subtotals for expenditures, her total political expenditures is missing lesser expenditures that are claimed but not itemized.
Her 8 Days Prior also does not include the smaller contributions in the total political contributions or the entire political expenditures in the expenditure total. With the given $230.80 from the first report, the $160 in smaller contributions and $1,100 in itemized contributions minus the $46.93 in lesser expenditures and $818.96 in itemized expenditures, her balance would be $624.91. It would not be the reported $524.13.
The City of Lewisville states on its website that the city secretary’s office would be happy to help candidates in any way during their candidacy.
“We would caution you, however, that the responsibility for compliance with the Election Laws and the Finance Filing Guide for local candidates and officeholders belongs solely to the candidate,” the site reads.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to follow-up on a comment left by former candidate Shari Chambers regarding her 8 Days Prior form. She said she sent the form by mail and the filing office said it was not received.