Question: Why is Denise deMedeiros listed as “inactive” on the state’s campaign finance Web site?
One has to wonder how many people who consider serving their communities by running for local offices decide against doing so when they find out about hurdles like ethics and campaign finance filings. Sure, from the government’s point of view, filing a handful of forms per year is not a lot of extra work, and it creates the potential, at least, for voters to search for corruption. It certainly provides state and local journalists with a well from which to draw stories from time to time, and it’s a popular tool for activists to make their opponents look corrupt, especially when those opponents are newcomers to politics trying to shake things up a bit.
But forms are forms, and no matter how simple they are, many people’s eyes glaze over the second they sit down to fill in the boxes.
Then there’s the risk of having to pay fines. Right there on the front page of the Board of Election’s Web site is a link to a list of unpaid fines for missed or delayed reports. The latest list, from June 2014, shows a total of $1.8 million in fines, ranging from the $25 minimum to $188,008.
Interested folks can use the board’s online tool (linked on the homepage of Tiverton Fact Check) to look for candidates, political groups, donors, and recipients of campaign dollars. If a Tiverton resident searches for “deMedeiros,” the current town council vice president, Denise, does come up and is listed as “inactive.” In fact, the search results show no reports filed since her school committee days, ending in 2009.
Responding to an inquiry from Tiverton Fact Check, Director of Campaign Finance Richard Thornton stated by email that deMedeiros is, indeed, active:
In 2012, deMedeiros filed an Affidavit for Annual Filing Exemption on October 9, 2012, which exempted her from filing the pre-and post-election campaign finance reports, but required her to file an Annual Summary. The Annual Summary was due by Jan 31, 2013, but DeMedeiros filed it on Feb 20, 2013, resulting in a $25 late filing penalty which was paid on Feb 25, 2013. Concurrent with her Annual Summary, deMedeiros filed a Notice of Dissolution, thereby closing her account with the Board of Elections. An officeholder is not required to have an open account with the Board provided her or she does not raise or spend funds during the period.DeMedeiros ran for Town Council again in 2014, thereby reopening her account with the Board of Elections. She was required to file a 28 Days Before Election report by Oct 7, 2014, but filed it on Oct 16, resulting in a $25 fine which was paid on Oct 16. She was also required to file a 7 Days Before Election report by October 28, 2014, which has not been filed, resulting in a $25 fine which has not been paid.
Thornton further explained that fines can add up quickly when forms are not submitted at all, because after two delinquency notices, the Board of Elections begins adding $2 per day. Anybody who has attended Board of Elections meetings has spent some time listening to Rhode Islanders who thought they’d do something good and run for office beg to have the back-breaking fines waived.
Back to Denise deMedeiros: The reason she comes up as “inactive” on a first search is that, when she started filing again as a candidate for town council in 2012, either she or the Board of Elections added a space into her last name between “de” and “Medeiros,” so the system treats her as a different person.