Shutdown may block access to federal campaign reports

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 89 views 

With the government shutdown now in its ninth day and with no end appearing to be on the horizon, candidates for federal offices may be wondering what to do about their third quarter campaign finance reports that are due next Tuesday, Oct. 15.

According to information posted on the Federal Election Commission's website, reporting deadlines will not change due to the shutdown. What that means is that all reports detailing fundraising by any campaigns for federal office will be due on time. But there is a catch.

"The FEC does not have statutory authority to extend filing deadlines, but may choose not to pursue administrative fines against filers prevented from filing by reasonably unforeseen circumstances beyond their control," a message on the site reads.

Because of the shutdown, the message goes on to say that the agency will not pursue fines against candidates who are late filing their third quarter reports.

"Accordingly, the Commission will not pursue administrative fines against filers with reports due during the shutdown who fail to file on a timely basis, so long as they file within 24 hours after the Commission resumes operations. For electronic filers, reports that are due during the shutdown should be filed no later than 24 hours after the FEC resumes operations and its  electronic filing system is functioning."

While the rules generally apply to all federal candidates, those running for the U.S. Senate actually fall under different reporting rules.

Candidates for the U.S. Senate must file with the Office of the Secretary of the Senate. The files are then remitted to the FEC.

But even though the Senate is open and operational, the FEC has still said Senate campaign finance disclosures will fall under the same rules as other candidates.

"Similarly, paper filers — including those who file with the Secretary of the Senate—must file no later than 24 hours after the Commission reopens."

Even if candidates are able to file electronically, such as House candidates, the FEC has said that those reports will not make their way online until after the shutdown ends.

"Agency staff will not report to work, some computer systems will be powered down and the agency’s headquarters will be closed. While the FEC’s website will remain on-line, its content will not be updated," a message on the site reads. "Although the interactive, web-based programs and electronic filing systems may be available for a temporary period of time after the shutdown, IT staff will not be available to monitor and resolve any technological issues that may arise regarding those systems."

When reached for comment, a representative of U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, said Cotton's third quarter campaign finance reports associated with his run for the U.S. Senate against U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., would be filed on time.

"We have received no guidance, but we plan to file as we normally would on October 15th."

Asked if the Pryor campaign was also treating campaign finance reporting on Tuesday as business as usual, Pryor campaign spokeswoman Amy Schlesing said they were.

A representative for the campaign of U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, who is seeking a third term in the House of Representatives next year, replied to an e-mail seeking comment by sending a link to the FEC's webpage on the shutdown, later adding, "We don't have any additional information."

Attempts to get in touch with the campaigns of Tommy Moll and Arkansas House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, both seeking the Republican nomination for Cotton's Fourth District seat next year, were unsuccessful.