In May of this year, Chris Messervy was disqualified from the Republican nomination for Madison County district court judge. Perhaps, in his 2008 election for district 1 of the Huntsville city council, Richard Showers should have been disqualified as well.
The Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act (Section 17-5-18) says one cannot be elected or nominated if the person has failed to file required campaign finance reports. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld the law in 2008, however it ruled that late preelection reports are OK as long as they are submitted before the election.
Messervy was disqualified because he submitted a last before-the-election campaign finance report on election day. The report due on March 9 was not submitted until March 13, voters were denied campaign finance information to which they were entitled, and a momentary victory was taken away because receipts and expenditures of $5,751 during the last week before the election were reported one day late.
Showers is a long serving Huntsville city councilman. In 2008, he submitted his last-before-the-election campaign finance report on the day before the August 26 election. This was four days late but not necessarily disqualifying … unless the report was defective in some significant way. And in this case perhaps it was.
The report in question showed an end of reporting period balance of $26,240.34. This is a rather large balance with which to end a campaign in which the candidate had collected over $51,000 in contributions. And as it turns out it was a very incorrect amount.
Contrary to law, after August 25, 2008, Showers did not do much with his campaign finance reports until late in 2011 as he began his campaign to be reelected on August 28, 2012. On July 19, 2012, he caught up some unfinished business by filing his 2008 annual report three and a half years late. This report was due in January 2009. If it had been filed on time, the defects in Showers’ compliance with the law could have been known early in his term, early enough to have mattered, early enough to disqualify Showers from election if appropriate.
Would disqualification of Richard Showers be or have been appropriate for his significantly flawed report of August 2008 and for filing his annual report for 2008 more than three years late?
In the late annual report for 2008, Showers revealed that $26,240.34 was not his balance on August 25, 2008. He now reports that over $10,000 of this balance was actually spent between January 2008 and before the election on August 26, 2008 and most of the rest was spent before the end of the year. At the least, this is sloppy bookkeeping. But Messervy could say the same.
In 2008, Showers spent over $37,000 before election day but reported spending only $27,000, or about 75 percent of the real amount. Is this good enough? We are not likely to find out because the passage of time is now Richard Showers’ protector.
There are other defects in Showers’ reports. For example, he reported seven expenditures totaling $5,001.64 between January and May 2008 to Campaign. These expenditure records are incomplete because the ultimate recipient of the expenditure is not identified by name and complete address. These expenditures may be legitimate, but they are improperly reported and certainly this raises the suspicion that campaign funds may have been misused.
Another curiosity is a contribution of $250 on February 23, 2012 where the contributor is identified as “anonymous by donor’s request.” Richard Showers’ does not seem to get the point the point that the whole idea behind campaign finance law is to identify who is giving money to his campaign.
At some level of incompetence cunning must be presumed. Are we there yet?
Folks have been convicted for less. You can read what happened last year to Troy Smithwick here. Maybe the rules are different north of the Tennessee River.
Code of Alabama, see Title 17, Chapter 5, Section18 (17-5-18): Failure to file required statement or report. A certificate of election or nomination shall not be issued to any person elected or nominated to state or local office who shall fail to file any statement or report required by this chapter. A certificate of election or nomination already issued to any person elected or nominated to state or local office who fails to file any statement or report required by this chapter shall be revoked.
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