Politics are not for the squeamish or uninitiated.
It’s said that campaigns and lawmaking is much like making sausage, an ugly and bloody mess. Not everyone cares for the stench.
Campaign finance laws are only a part of the mess.
While the original idea was to provide “transparency” so voters would know a candidate’s contributors, they’ve devolved into a smoke screen that does little to help the average citizen make an informed decision.
Statutes are not consistent; Reports are not due until way past the election date; and there is no verification of committee officers.
Savvy politicos often set up quasi-grassroots groups with misleading titles such as “Citizens for” or “Parents for” groups to funnel money knowing the penalty for failing to comply is less than an average speeding ticket.
The process is about as transparent as a black hole. A lot gets sucked into it, but nobody knows how it’s going to come out.
So it is with the finance report for the Gardner Recall Committee which got two elected city council members ousted and resulted in a governing body with the majority of members appointed by the mayor.
The recall committee failed to submit their report by the Dec. 31 deadline, breaking the law.
Once made aware of their failure, they quickly filed a report, although incomplete. They apologized to the election office and said they were unaware a report was necessary.
Once they had the form in hand, the requirements are clearly stated: itemized expenditures and receipts should be reported, whether a campaign group was established or not.
In other words, there are no excuses for failing to itemize receipts and expenditures.
But the form submitted by the Gardner Recall Committee lists no itemized receipts, just a total, even though Ryan Beasley, treasurer, admits the group had a bank account. He could’ve used the account to better document – in accordance with the law – who donated and exactly what money was spent where. However, he declined to comment further, citing his lack of respect for The Gardner News.
Respect for this newspaper isn’t the issue. Complying with the law is.
It’s ironic that the same group which organized to oust two officials over a perceived transparency wrongdoing, are now subject to the same review.
Following the groups’ ideaology, should residents now call for the removal of Beasley from his appointed position on the Electric Utility Board?
That’s not for us to decide, and voters have no say. Only the Mayor can remove an appointee.
And although Beasley and other recall committee members may have been acting in blind faith, trying to do what they believed was right, we disagree with their process. The ends do not justify the means.
But the bigger question here is less blame placing and more accountability.
The truth is Gardner residents will never know who contributed to that campaign. Or other campaigns we’ve reviewed.
That’s wrong, and it casts the shadow of the ethically challenged on all involved.
The campaign finance report is more than a piece of paper. If you think receipts are unimportant on just another boring report, try omitting an income statement on an IRS form. Listing donors and receipts is the law.
It speaks to credibility, ethics, transparency and responsibility.
However, rather than blame-placing, citizens need to stand up and demand equitable and enforceable campaign finance statutes.
The public has the right and responsibility to know, so they can make informed choices.