Campaign finance reporting depends on transparency

Share it:

While sign code violations might feel more like speeding in the grand scheme of illicit political acts, issues around campaign finance reporting can have serious consequences. Politicians have faced career-ending scandal and even gone to jail for violations.

Even when we’re not talking about bricks of cash in a freezer, the way a candidate approaches the grey areas of mandatory financial reporting tells you a lot about how they view transparency and their respect for the voting public.

Starting September 21st this year, each individual political transaction must be reported within seven days on an ongoing basis. There is no monthly or weekly deadline. Simply, once money changes hands, you have seven days to report it.

Noncompliance around reporting deadlines was brought up in a debate after incumbent city councilor Justin Livington accused his opponent – without citing any specific examples – of failing to be transparent and not reporting in-kind contributions. He also asserted the claim a day before to Brenna Visser for her roundup of local campaign spending in The Bulletin.

Melanie Kebler shot back in the debate that she handles her own financial reporting (many others, like Livingston, hire accountants) and that it is complete and up to date. A review of her reporting show no apparent faults – check for yourself.

Kebler went further and pointed out the apparent noncompliance by Livingston. Watch here:

Watch the exchange

Campaign finance became such a central issue in this race because Livingston is receiving a disproportionate amount of his money from one entity – the Central Oregon Association of Realtors PAC. At last check, fully 74% of his money came from COAR.

Here’s the problem: COAR spent on polling for Livingston and their other supported candidates on September 17th. Livingston failed to report the in-kind expense while other recipients did report it.

Over $2,000 was reported more than a month later by Livingston only after it was mentioned in the debate – after Livingston made an issue of reporting in-kind contributions. Notice the due date versus the filed date here.


A perhaps more serious case impacts the three Republicans running for Bend city council – Livingston, Chris Piper, and Michael Hughes. In this case, the Bend Chamber PAC paid for polling for all three. Every single one of them failed to report it on time and then provided a false transaction date.

There is a penalty for late reporting. Altering the date may have been an attempt to avoid that penalty. Even though the fine is paltry, the bad press that results is arguably worse.

The transaction was reported as occurring on 10/15 by Bend Chamber PAC. The due date for recipients to report it was 10/22. The three did not report until 10/24, after it was due.

Had the transaction date been reported accurately by the campaigns as the 15th, the fine would have likely been no more than a maximum $75 per campaign. Since it was only two days late, it may have been as little as $7.50 each!

Now, it is left to the Secretary of State’s office to investigate and determine whether this combination of late filing and a false date merits a stiffer penalty.

This article is part of a series: Law, ethics, and what campaigns do


Looking for some bedtime reading? Find Oregon’s campaign finance handbook here (pdf)