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Originally published: 2013-11-06 11:15:39
Last modified: 2013-11-06 11:15:39

GOP Women's Club files disclosure report

by Anna Oakes

The Watauga County Republican Women's Club on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 submitted a pre-election disclosure report to the Watauga County Board of Elections, which was due Oct. 28.

Last week, Watauga Democrat reported that the club -- as well as the Watauga County Democratic Party and a Chapel Hill-based Upward South PAC -- had failed to submit disclosure reports required for committees making direct contributions to municipal candidates.

Failure to file the reports appears to stem from confusion or unfamiliarity with a 2008 law, General Statutes 163-278.40J. Although political party committees and political action committees typically file disclosure reports with the State Board of Elections, the law requires the committees to file a report with local boards of elections if they make contributions to municipal candidates.

According to the club's disclosure report, the group made contributions of $150 to Boone Town Council candidate Mark Templeton and Blowing Rock Town Council candidate Tommy Klutz on Oct. 1.

Four Boone municipal candidates listed contributions of $346.25 from the Watauga County Democratic Party during the 35-day reporting period, which would require the party committee to file a disclosure report with the Watauga County Board of Elections for that period. The party has not filed a 35-day report, which was due Oct. 1.

Susan Phipps, treasurer for the local Democratic Party, said the contributions listed by the candidates actually came from multiple contributors at a fundraiser held earlier this year and that the candidate committees should have listed the contributions as such -- though the party wrote the checks to each candidates' campaign. Watauga County Elections Director Jane Hodges said it's possible the candidates' reports could be amended to reflect this but that she is awaiting direction from the state board.

Amy Strange, compliance specialist with the State Board of Elections, said Nov. 1 that "our office will follow up with the committees involved in order to determine what should have been filed."

Upward South PAC contributed $250 to Boone mayoral contender Andy Ball during the pre-election reporting period, according to Ball's disclosure report. Evan Degnan of Upward South said Sunday that the organization was unaware of the requirement and that it was not mentioned in the campaign finance manual provided by the SBOE.

"We're working with the SBOE to figure out exactly what is required as local BOEs have given us contradictory information," Degnan said. "We plan to file the required paperwork and will come into compliance this week."

Jane Steffens, SBOE education and disclosure specialist, did not respond as of presstime Tuesday to a question about whether the local filing requirement was included in this year's campaign finance manual or discussed at elections staff trainings since 2008.