Candidates trained in campaign finance | Porter County News

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VALPARAISO — Candidates got a lesson on how to use Porter County’s new online campaign finance software as well as how to fill out old-fashioned forms.

“We’ve never had this many people at a campaign finance training before,” Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey said.

The Porter County Board of Elections has begun levying fines as it enforces campaign finance rules. Even filing a minute late can result in a $50 fine, said Kenard Taylor, who led Saturday’s practice.

Taylor, of KLT Consulting LLC, was the county’s test pilot for the software and made many modifications, he said. Over the years, he has filed some 300 reports and is currently treasurer of 17 campaigns, he said.

“Don’t kid yourself; people look at these reports,” he told attendees.

Taylor testified in two federal trials involving campaign finance and spoke to FBI agents in a third, he said.

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His first piece of advice to candidates is not to be treasurer of their own campaign committee. “A candidate’s job is to get elected, and if you’re spending your time on campaign finance reports, you’re not spending enough time on your campaign,” Taylor said.

Another no-no is to use your personal bank account for campaign donations. This can lead to scrutiny of your finances by the IRS, as all deposits in your personal account count against your personal income. Instead, obtain an Employer Identification Number from the IRS and create a separate account for your campaign.

Taylor advised against opening an interest-bearing account. Earning interest automatically triggers the need to file a campaign tax return. Most local banks do not charge interest, but some large national banks do, he said.

Keeping meticulous records is vital. For example, not knowing whether the donation is from an individual or a business may require the donor to appear before the county board of elections to face charges of violating a campaign finance law. “Guess how long this donor is going to be your donor” if he has to hire a lawyer to settle the whole thing, Taylor said.

Contributions should be recorded carefully.

“The best thing you can accept is checks because it gives you all the information you need,” Taylor said. He advised photocopying checks before depositing them and using cash receipt books that give the campaign a duplicate copy.

In-kind donations should be reported as both income and expense. “It would be best if he gave you a letter stating what that fair market value is,” he said.

Taylor walked candidates and campaign workers through a 70-slide PowerPoint presentation to explain the intricacies of completing the reports.

“Over the past 10 years, I’ve been faced with many questions,” he said, including what to do if the candidate dies before the campaign committee is disbanded. If this happens, it is up to the executor to determine whether to donate the balance to charity or another nominee.

Taylor praised Bailey’s work in county election administration. “One of the greatest things she did was set up this county’s easy campaign finance system,” he said.

“Some of you might want to do it the old-fashioned way. I feel sorry for you, but it’s your choice,” he said.

The online reporting system allows the campaign treasurer to enter information frequently throughout the campaign to ease the burden of spending a lot of time just before the deadline to complete reports.

This year is also the first that Porter County will use voting centers. Voters will be able to vote at any polling station, not just in their constituency, as was the case in the past.

Early voting begins Monday. The hours will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The hours for April 23 and 30, the last two Saturdays before the election, will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Early voting locations are the Porter County Administration Building, 155 Indiana Ave., Room 102A, in downtown Valparaiso; Chesterton City Hall, 790 Broadway; Hebron Community Center, 611 N. Main St.; North County Government Complex, 3560 Willowcreek Road, Portage; Union Township Fire Station 2, 267 N. 600 West; the Valparaiso Fire Department Training Building, 355 Evans Ave. ; and USW Local 6787, 1100 N. Max Mochal Hwy., Chesterton.

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