Letter – Heed campaign finance rules

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Over the span of the last two election cycles, Isle of Wight County has seen its share of election issues: half of the 2022 candidates having material omissions on their ballot petitions, courts getting involved in primaries, officials with criminal charges and who knows what else has happened that wasn’t caught. The one issue that continues to happen and only seems to be getting worse are campaign finance violations.

The campaign finance reports for the cycle that ended on Nov. 30 were recently released. This reporting is especially significant because it shows what was spent and received during the final days of election and it is when most candidates close out their accounts.

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Local candidates barely receive any scrutiny, other than filing reports late, and that only recently started happening due to pressure from citizens. Some local candidates continue to make the same errors over and over, to the point it makes you wonder if this is willful ignorance or a lack of respect for the integrity of our elections.

Violations and questionable practices from some of our local candidates in this most recent cycle include large monetary contributions incorrectly reported (again), purchasing gift cards while closing out their account, no expenditures to match costs that incurred for advertised campaign events, paying their own business for a service, not understanding who a company is, so instead listing their own names there, which is campaign finance fraud, and the list goes on.

Also, many of these candidates ended with a zero balance exactly. Meaning they spent every last penny that was donated or loaned on the campaign. When they closed out their accounts not one penny was donated to another campaign or nonprofit or returned to a donor as described in campaign finance policies and law.

Here’s hoping future candidates will take campaign finance rules seriously and handle their finances with integrity. These candidates, when elected, control and spend OUR hard earned tax dollars.

If a candidate can’t figure out how to file finance reports with accuracy, honesty and transparency, or worse, doesn’t care about filing reports correctly, we must hold them accountable at the ballot box.


Heidi Swartz