These were candidates, PACS, PICS, political parties and some of Utah’s leading lobbyists.
Maybe you, dear UtahPolicy reader, are one of them.
Maybe your local political party or the PAC you contributed to is one.
The fines are relatively small, a hundred bucks, for some groups.
But lobbyists get hit with a $1,000 fine for the first offense, up to $5,000 and a two-year suspension for future offenses.
The list of lobbyists who missed the filing deadlines and were fined $1,000 are some of the best known on Capitol Hill.
That list is below.
My guess is lobbyists – whose paycheck depends on being able to talk to legislators and administration officials – don’t miss their filing deadlines to such an extent that they risk their licenses.
And Mark Thomas, head of the elections office, confirms that.
“We didn’t suspend any lobbyists in 2012,” he told UtahPolicy on Monday.
Still, 125 groups or individuals were fined for late or non-filings. And two candidates – both third party members – had their names removed from the ballot for not filing required reports.
Those 125 delinquents don’t count any late, year-end filings that were due on Jan. 10. The Election Office staff hasn’t yet had time to deal with those incidents.
Thomas says the 2012 election cycle was the first time that PACs, PICs and political parties could be fined. Before that, lobbyists could be fined and candidates could be removed from the ballot for missing campaign finance deadlines.
But PACs, PICs and political parties had criminal penalties for repeated non-filing. However, it was unclear which person(s) may be responsible.
“The question came up: “Who do you fine in a PAC, if a deadline is missed? Who do you jail in a political party, if a deadline is missed?”
“So the law was changed so we could fine these entities,” he said.
You can see the names of groups – like PACs and corporations – that were fined this past year at the bottom of this article.
Thomas and his staff go to great lengths to remind lobbyists and political entities to file on time.
Thomas says they have telephoned delinquents up to the 5 p.m. deadlines numerous times.
If Election Office officials know the cell numbers of those involved, they ring and ring them. If they know their spouses, or lobbyist partners, they call them.
“We’ve used Facebook, posting on their walls that they had better get their reports in.”
Delinquent respondents would then get an email on their smartphone with the Facebook notification.
(And what responsible (irresponsible?) lobbyists don’t have at least one smartphone, maybe two, maybe a smartphone and an iPad.)
I remember when legislators didn’t want to carry a cell phone because they were too big and considered intrusive. Now the state provides iPhones, iPads and/or MacBook Airs to each of the 104 legislators who want them.
And, of course, all these entities can file on line with the Elections Office, making the reports easier to fill out and easier and quicker for the public to view them – which is one of the main reasons for the transparency in the first place.
Thomas says his staff does work hard to notify groups and individuals about a looming report deadline because the goal is informing the public, not punishing latecomers.
“It is a lot easier to deal with notifying them, and getting their reports in, on the front end than it is to deal with them on the back end – fines, taking their names off the ballot and so on.
Much more cost effective,” he adds.
And the tens of thousands of dollars the Election Office collects in fines?
They don’t get to keep it.
“All fines are deposited in the state’s General Fund. Our office doesn’t get to keep any of it.”