Bemidji Area Citizens for an Informed Electorate (CIE) Forms Subcommittee on Campaign Finance (CIE/CFS)
September 8, 2020
The Bemidji Area Citizens for an Informed Electorate (CIE) recently formed a Campaign Finance Subcommittee for campaign ethical practices. (CIE/CCF)
The CIE, formed in 2008, is strictly non-partisan. It seeks to provide an outlet for the public to gain more knowledge about candidates, thereby making more informed decisions at the polls prior to Primary, General and Special Elections for City of Bemidji and Beltrami County. In non-COVID years we also host forums, at Bemidji City Hall, that includes City, County, School Board and State Senate and Representative candidates who serve Beltrami County.
The CIE represents a cross section of citizens and media members who want to provide opportunities for the public to know the candidates and issues. We include Patricia Grimes, Rachell Houle, Linda Lemmer, Michael Meuers, Dennis Montgomery, Maggie Montgomery, and Michael Naylor. (CIE Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/Bemidji-area-Citizens-for-an-Informed-Electorate-118822578160686/)
We all have heard news reports how money has corrupted federal and state governments. Money is often a pretty good predictor of who will win elections.
Many area citizens may remember the 2018 local election for city council, where three candidates and one committee (acting to influence an election) had complaints filed with the state. All were found liable and paid fines. Complaints were filed by members of the Bemidji electorate.
Cities and Counties are created by the state government and typically operate under provisions set out in the state constitution. As such, they are essentially administrative units of the state.
Although the state of Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Created 1974, (Minn. Stat. § 10A.01 et seq.) (previously named Ethical Practices Board) enforces campaign finance laws for State Senator, State Representative, and State Executive offices, it does not enforce campaign finance laws at the county, city or school board levels. In fairness, the state also does not provide the monies to enforce campaign finance laws for their "administrative units" (another unfunded mandate), so it is left to City, County, and School Board individual voters to monitor local campaign finance reports.
From the City of Bemidji Website (Emphasis is mine)
"Except for the City Clerk's enforcement of the prohibitions in Minnesota Statutes 211B.11 against campaigning in or around polling places, the City Clerk does not interpret or enforce the Fair Campaign Practices statutes (211B) or Campaign Financial Reports statutes (211A), except to collect and post reports from a candidate or committee."
If you have a strong interest in how our local candidates raise funds (including in-kind donations) and how they spend those funds and on what, click on the links below for school board, county, and city to view candidate campaign finance reports. This is public information. All candidates who have submitted reports (following the law) are posted there for your examination.
Bemidji School District, ISD 31 Website (financial report postings for 2016 & 2018, none for 2020)
Beltrami County Website (financial reports 2016, 2018, and 2020)
City of Bemidji Website (financial reports starting 2014 to 2020) https://www.ci.bemidji.mn.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC=%7B709E344B-8103-47F4-BE4B-C239390A2F60%7D
From the City's Website; Government - Elections & Voting - Campaign Financial Reports
As candidates file for candidacy, the City Clerk must give them a copy of the Minnesota Campaign Manual. The Manual explains campaign financial reporting and campaign practices requirements and prohibitions that apply to candidates and committees active on the City level of government. Candidates filing for municipal office and committees acting to influence the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate are required to file a campaign financial report with the City Clerk within 14 days after the candidate or committee receives contributions or makes disbursements of more than $750 in a calendar year. In a year when the candidate's name appears on the ballot, additional reports are due as follows:
• 10 days before the primary election
• 10 days before the general election
• 30 days after a general election
• by January 31 of each year following the year when the initial report was filed
A final report may be filed any time after the candidate, committee, or corporation has settled all debts and disposed of all assets in excess of $100 in aggregate.
Concerned citizens should take their complaints directly to:
State of Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings
Reports must: (These campaign laws apply to City, County, and School Board elections)
• Provide accurate Campaign Finance Reports that describe money in (cash and in-kind donations) and money out.
• Include the name, address, and employer, or occupation if self-employed of any individual or committee that during the year has made one or more contributions that in the aggregate exceeds $100.00 and the amount and date of each contribution. The filing officer must restrict public access to the address of any individual who has made a contribution that exceeds $100.00 and who has filed with the filing officer a written statement signed by the individual that withholding the individuals address from the financial report is required for the safety of the individual or the individuals family. If retired, reports need to indicate that.
• A candidate or candidate's committee may not accept aggregate contributions made or delivered by an individual or committee in excess of $600.00 in an election year for the office sought and $250.00 in other years except that a candidate or a candidates committee for an office whose territory has a population over 100,000 may not accept aggregate contributions made or delivered by an individual or committee in excess of $1000.00 in an election year and $250.00 in other years.
• In-kind donations are treated the same as cash by law
• A candidate or a candidate committee who receives contributions or makes disbursements of more than $750.00 in a calendar year shall submit an initial report to the filing officer within 14 days after receiving or making disbursements of more than $750.00 and continue to make the reports required until the final report is filed.