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Political brouhaha festers over paperwork filing

The East Lincoln Political Action Committee, which has been in operation since January, recently filed required paperwork after having operated illegally for seven months.
The organization, which is part of the East Lincoln Betterment Association, has conducted candidate interviews for county commissioner and has publicized its intent to endorse candidates.
Tom Anderson, Larry Craig and Marie Moore received ELPAC’s endorsement for Lincoln County Commissioner in the upcoming July 20 primary election.
Judy Browne, chairwoman of the group, said she didn’t know that she was supposed to register with the county.
“We were just struggling to get organized in the beginning,” Browne said.
She said she thought she had 10 days to register the group when the organization started to collect funds. Up until recently, ELPAC did not have any funds, Browne said.
But according to Judy Caudill, director of the Board of Elections in Lincoln County, anytime anyone is doing any kind of political activity they are supposed to file a PAC within 10 days of organizing, even before money is raised or collected.
ELPAC did not do this.
Ralph Harkey, media contact with ELPAC, said the handbook that they were given for such organizations did not state this.
According to Harkey, ELPAC was not organized until June 28 when there was an election of officers. Therefore, he said the group registered within the 10-day time frame they were given.
He also said that money was not collected from any donors until July 3 at the Denver Business Association July 4 celebration and on July 8 at the ELPAC general meeting.
But some disagree.
So far, two complaints have been filed with the county election board by Jason Saine, a Lincoln GOP strategist. The first complaint was filed Tuesday, stating the group never filed its campaign finance information. The second complaint, which was filed Thursday, said there were activities with expenses that were conducted prior to what the group actually reported.
Saine said ELPAC has not been truthful and has been “pretty flippant” about the whole situation.
He said it is not an honest mistake that the group did not file.
“They have been operating for several months,” he said. “It should have crossed their minds.”
Saine said he found out ELPAC paid for a candidate’s dinner on June 23 at Safari Miles.
“This is another violation of the campaign finance laws, and I wish to register this formal complaint,” Saine’s letter read.
But Harkey said many of the candidate interviews that were scheduled were during supper hour and were held at a restaurant for convenience.
“As a personal courtesy, one of the interviewers picked up the tab out of his or her pocket for iced tea, water, an appetizer,” Harkey said.
He said that no ELPAC money was used for this purpose.
“As a matter of fact, to my knowledge, at the time no ELPAC funds had been collected,” he said.
Amy Strange, campaign finalist analyst for the N.C. State Board of Elections, said the two complaints on the group will be forwarded on to the state board who will conduct a thorough investigation.
“Most likely since it is their first time they will just receive a penalty waiver,” she said. “But they will need to assess the penalties.”
by Amy Wadsworth

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