November 2, 2020

Commission adopts focus areas to meet strategic plan  

The Commission approved five major focus areas for the agency as it works toward the values outlined in the PDC’s strategic plan.  

Commission Chairman David Ammons said the five projects align with the PDC’s mission of promoting confidence in the political process. 

The five areas of focus are: 

  • Standardize and streamline the enforcement process to ensure timely resolution of compliance cases 
  • Expand and diversify PDC training and outreach efforts for filers and for the public 
  • Complete audits of selected campaigns (chosen equally from both major parties) with a goal of identifying potential policy changes and instructions to campaigns to improve reporting  
  • Identify if improvements are needed for disclosure of digital political advertising and determine how to implement needed improvements 
  • Continue modernization of online campaign reporting finance systems 

Executive Director Peter Lavallee noted that each of the projects are already underway and continued progress will partly depend on the agency’s ability to retain staff as the state considers budget cuts. 

 

Handling filer modification requests 

Commission members Russell Lehman and Nancy Isserlis offered recommendations for how the Commission should deal with requests from filers for modifications to the reporting process. 

Those requests come from filers who want to make a case for keeping legally required information from being disclosed to the public. Most often, requests come from filers concerned about disclosing the address of residential property they own or disclosing certain business dealings. 

While statute and regulations govern the granting of modifications, the Commission does have some discretion in the process. Commission members explored whether the process could become more efficient both for staff and the Commission. 

Commission members agreed: 

  • To have staff members at Commission meetings summarize written materials, rather than read the information into the record. 
  • To refer cases from filers who have been granted a modification extending throughout their term of office – but whose circumstances change during that term – to the full Commission.  
  • To try to handle other cases at a hearing presided over by one commissioner. This would reduce the amount of time spent by the full Commission on these matters. 

 

Compliance reviews, audits underway 

The Commission heard a report about staff reviews of current races and audits of past campaigns. The enforcement team is looking at 17 current competitive legislative district races and all statewide races to ensure that reports are being filed on time, that required disclosures of ads are being made and other rules are followed. 

Filer assistance specialists are reaching out to current campaigns when compliance team members spot problems and working with campaigns to make corrections. So far, the results have been mainly positive. 

“It shows our outreach to the public and to candidates is paying off,” said Deputy Director BG Sandahl. “It’s nice to see people are getting it right.” 

In addition, the staff will be doing a more complete audit of several 2018 races and hopes to conduct some 2020 audits after the November election. 

 

Public records requests down 

The PDC received 71 public records requests in the third quarter – most (58) were requests for officials’ Personal Financial Affairs (F-1) statements. The total number is down from quarter three of 2019, when there were 123 requests. This is likely due to the decision to post 2020 and newer F-1s online. 

 

Enforcement stats 

PDC staff closed a total of 28 cases between Sept. 14 and Oct. 13, 2020. 

Of those, 12 were closed with reminders, primarily to first-time candidates. Another six included written warnings issued to incumbents for violations such as exceeding contribution limits. 

As of Oct. 13, there were 68 active cases. A total of 18 of those were heard in a brief enforcement hearing, 35 were under assessment and 11 were being investigated for possible violations. 

Click on this link for details about enforcement cases.  

 

Next Commission meeting: Dec. 3, 2020