It’s a funny thing, being really obsessive about fact-checking and following leads. For example, most people who were reviewing a list of donors to a campaign would not take the time to verify that those PACs were properly formed.
Let me back up a tiny bit, however, and lay out the groundrules for forming a PAC and contributing to a candidate. First, Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-215 states, in pertinent part:
(a) (1) (A) To qualify as an approved political action committee, the political action committee shall register with the Secretary of State within fifteen (15) days after accepting contributions during a calendar year that exceed five hundred dollars ($500) in the aggregate.
(a) (1) (C) Registration shall be on forms provided by the Secretary of State, and the contents therein shall be verified by an affidavit of an officer of the political action committee.
(a) (3) (A) The political action committee shall designate a resident agent who shall be an individual who resides in this state.
(a) (3) (B) No contribution shall be accepted from a political action committee and no expenditure shall be made by a political action committee that has not registered and does not have a resident agent.
(b) The registration form of an approved political action committee shall contain the following information:
(b) (3) The full name and street address, city, state, and zip code of each financial institution the political action committee uses for purposes of receiving contributions or making expenditures within this state;
(b) (4) A written acceptance of designation as a resident agent;
(c) (1) When a committee makes a change to any information required in subsection (b) of this section, an amendment shall be filed within ten (10) days to reflect the change.
(c) (2) A committee failing to file an amendment shall be subject to a late filing fee of ten dollars ($10.00) for each day the change is not filed.
There’s a lot of stuff to unpack in there, but the gist of it is this: before a PAC can accept donations and before it can contribute to any candidate, it must file paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office, and that paperwork must include the name of a “resident agent.” I bolded the word “shall” throughout that blockquote to illustrate the mandatory nature of all of these provisions. (For purposes of statutory construction, “shall” is an auxiliary verb used before an infinitive verb to show a requirement or obligation that is mandatory.)
Arkansas Code Annotated § 7-6-203 delineates the rules about contribution limits, one of which is this:
(e) (1) It shall be unlawful for any candidate for any public office or any person acting in the candidate’s behalf to accept any contribution from a prohibited political action committee for any election.
(e) (2) It shall be unlawful for any prohibited political action committee to make a contribution to a candidate for public office in an election.
Just what is a “prohibited political action committee?” Well, according to § 7-6-201, it is:
(15) (A) “Prohibited political action committee” means any person that receives contributions from one (1) or more persons in order to make contributions to candidates but that does not meet the requirements of an approved political action committee.
That is to say, any political action committee that has not satisfied section 215 is, by default, a “prohibited political action committee.”
Which — finally — brings us to my point for writing all of that. It seems that both the Arkansas Federation of Republican Women and the Twin Lakes Republican Women filed incomplete registrations.
It also seems that they both gave money to Mark Martin’s campaign for Secretary of State.
I contacted the Secretary of State’s office regarding Twin Lakes yesterday (I only found the other one this morning) and was told:
As previously stated, we are a repository for the PAC registrations, and only require that committee officer’s signature is present and the document is notarized. If a filer omits information, an amendment would need to be filed. We will be happy to contact Twin Lakes Republican Women and advise them that we have been notified of the absence of a registered agent and an amendment should be filed; however, with the exception of the signature and notarization, we do not review the information filed.
They also informed me that they had contacted the Ethics Commission to figure out the actual procedures that needed to be followed in a situation like this.
Now, just for the record, I am not implying that Mark Martin had any reason to know that the PACs were not properly formed. I am saying, however, that the law governing such things is very clear; at the time Martin accepted the donations, the donations were made in violation of the statute and received in violation of the statute. Just like with the Springdale business license and the filing of an incorrect monthly report, if Martin is so hell-bent on making sure Pat O’Brien crosses every T and dots every I, and if Martin is ready to cry “foul” over what he (incorrectly) considers a violation of federal law, then he should be held to the same standards.
That being the case, it would be nice if Martin would do the proper thing and return the contributions to the PACs in question. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that, though.