Sunday, April 17, 2005

Candidates, Like CEO's, Should Assume Personal Liability

Cincinnatus is right. What disincentive is a “fine” if you don’t have to pay it out of your personal bank account?

Corporate CEO’s used to be able to hide behind a veil of corporate identity to evade personal responsibility. But this is no longer the case. They are now held personally liable for their company’s financial reports and so should candidates for office be held personally accountable for their campaign’s financial activities.

The status quo is patently ridiculous. Under the current ethics rule, a candidate can make countless deliberate errors of commission or omission on their CFR’s, be accused found guilty and “fined,” and then after they are in office continue to raise funds from their political contributors to pay the "fine." Now we know incumbents have no difficulty raising funds to get reelected so they have little to fear from “fines” that can be paid from campaign funds collected from the very people who already have disproportionate influence in government. Can this really be what the Council of Elders intended when they enacted the new ethics rules?

Imagine the currently plausible scenario: A candidate takes $2000 from one donor in violation of the of the legally allowed $1000 limit. He/she gets “fined” less than $1000. He/she gets into office, since all oversight takes place after the election. He/she then goes back to the same donor and gets yet another $1000 to pay off the "fine." The last $1000 is not reflected on the campaign finance report for this season but instead is reported as money raised for his/her reelection campaign. The figures are on the next election's CFR’s and will not be available to the public for another two years. As the rabbi said, “Now, that just ain’t kosher.”

What would solve this problem is if the candidates were held personally liable for the “fines” assessed them. They should not be able to use campaign contributions to pay “fines” since they have already demonstrated their personal inability to obey campaign finance rules. Furthermore, if anybody gives a candidate money personally to assist them in paying said “fines,” that money should be viewed as a bribe and the elected official should be charged and prosecuted accordingly. In addition, the size of the “fines” should be dramatically increased, so that the successful lawyers who tend to run for the highest office in town will actually find them a real disincentive.

CEO’s are now regularly prosecuted and sent to prison for “accounting irregularities” on their watch. So should it be with those who seek elected office.


At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fines? Personal liability?

CEOs are being found criminally liable for their actions and the frauds of their companies. Likewise, some of the candidates in San Antonio's elections are plainly criminals.

Case in point:
Sheila McNeil, candidate for District 2. January campaign finance report listing $2600 in contributions, $937 in expendidtures, and a $0 balance. Signed "under penalty of perjury".

For those unfamiliar with the term perjury, let me quote Webster's dictionary:

"criminal offense of making false statements under oath [syn: bearing false witness, lying under oath]"

A legal definition can be found at

We're not talking about a simple theft of $1663, or a simple mistake. We're talking about perjury. Perjury is a FELONY. If *I* am accused of a felony, the district attorney is going to prosecute me. If convicted of a felony, I'm likely to spend several years in jail.

Doesn't the district attorney have an obligation to the citizens of San Antonio to pursue action against Ms. McNeil?

Or did she just unknowingly make a honest mistake? If she can't perform 3rd grade level addition and subtraction, how can she POSSIBLY be capable of governing District 2?


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