Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Committee races get hot

Scott Wagner's hand-made sign stood out from the other political signs along St. John on Tuesday.

It was his last-ditch effort to get him and his wife, who are running for Democrat Committeeman and Committeewoman positions in Historic Northeast's 12th Ward, in front of voters as they cast their ballots Tuesday at Holy Cross Parish. Down on Independence Ave., drivers have spent weeks looking at several political billboards, two of which were purchased by Democrat Committeman candidate Will Royster, as well the thousands of dollars worth of advertising he purchased in The Northeast News.

The once lowly Democrat Committee position, which historically has seen little campaigning if any in Northeast, has become just as heated as the other races sharing the same ballot.

That influx of campaigning also means Committeemen and women candidates are spending more money, thus catching the attention of state and county election officials who question where that money came from.

"I have never seen anyone campaign that much as to take out a billboard for a committeeman position," said Liz Ziegler with the Missouri Ethics Commission. "That situation has us really digging for answers here."

That situation? Do Committee candidates have to file reports with the state Ethics Commission, outlining where they get their campaign donations from and how they spent that money in their campaigns, just like every other candidate on the ballot?

State, county and even city Election Board officials are unsure of the answer. Officials are even more unsure as they have watched Royster's campaign spend large amounts of money and not file any paperwork with the state or local election boards, the same financial paperwork that is required of other candidates on the ballot. Missouri law dictates that if more than $500 is spent during any campaign, by any candidate or campaign committee, then it needs to be reported to the state. Those reports are public documents.

In July, candidates had to file a quarterly financial reports showing all donations to their campaign and, in turn, how and where they spent those donations. Candidates also had to file a similar report one week prior to Election Day.

Royster, to date, has not filed that paperwork. Wagner, when questioned, indicated he and his wife have spent less than the required threshold required for reporting. Nick Zicarelli, who is running against Wagner, went through the Old Northeast New Democrats political action committee — which is up to date with their Ethics Commission filings. Reports indicated that at the time of the last filing, John Rizzo has not spent any money on his own Committeeman race against Royster.

Ethics commission officials said they were unsure what action would have to be taken, if any when they looked at the numbers in Northeast's Democrat Committee races. Royster could not be reached for comment.

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