Tom Kacich: Johnson fund faces possible fine

The "Friends of Tim Johnson" campaign fund missed the Federal Election Commission filing deadline for its April 15 quarterly report and faces a fine for doing so, according to Mark Shelden, the treasurer for the fund.

Johnson, a former Republican congressman from Urbana, still has a little more than $250,000 in his campaign fund. He retired from Congress in January, after withdrawing from his race for re-election in April 2012.

Because Johnson's campaign fund still has money and occasionally makes expenditures, it is required to file quarterly reports with the FEC.

A letter from the FEC's reports analysis division to Shelden, dated May 3, says that the Johnson campaign "may have failed to file" its quarterly report and warned that failure to file on time "may result in civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action."

The report was filed on June 11.

Shelden, a former Champaign County clerk and later Johnson's chief of staff, took the blame for the missed deadline.

"We don't have any particularly good excuse other than we put in the wrong password and it didn't (get filed) and we didn't follow up," Shelden said. "I had another person working on it who I obviously didn't train too well, and I didn't follow up on their work."

FEC fines, he said, generally are based on the level of fundraising and spending activity by the committee, and since the Johnson committee raised no money and spent only $7,358, he said he expected it to be "pretty minimal.

"I don't know if it will be 1 percent of the activity, which would be something like 75 bucks, but I expect it will be something akin to that," Shelden said. "Now that the report is in they'll calculate and send us some notice. I don't know how long that will take."

Spending by the Johnson campaign in the first quarter this year included $250 to the Ford County Republican Party, $500 to the re-election committee of Parkland College board candidates James Ayers and Tom Bennett, and $1,000 to Johnson's daughter, Heather Stevenson, for what was described as organizing campaign files.

Meanwhile, Shelden acknowledged that he has been helping Erika Harold, the Urbana attorney who said earlier this month that she would challenge U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville in the 13th Congressional District GOP primary next March.

"I'm just advising her and giving her helpful suggestions about names to call and telling her how to do this and how to do that," Shelden said. "Just today someone asked me if I was her campaign manager. I said no, but that I was giving her advice. I don't know how it's all going to work out although I would anticipate that at some point maybe I could officially start working on her campaign. Right now we're kinda looking at a budget."

Harold's campaign staff now includes all volunteers: her father, Bob Harold, and Shelden and Joan Dykstra, both former aides to Johnson.

"Right now her focus is on getting out to different events, and putting data together and starting to make calls to people to get support and to raise money," Shelden said.

Shelden also confirmed that he had worked for about a month on the staff of the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee, but quit when he began helping Harold.

"Back in April they put me on a contract to start working in May. We basically agreed when Erika started to run that, for a variety of reasons, that wasn't going to work very well," he said. "It was a very small, modest contract" to do political consulting.

Davis/Harold poll

It didn't take long for a big bucket of cold water to be tossed on the Harold campaign last week. Less than a week after she had announced, a poll of 1,178 likely Republican voters in the district found that she trailed Davis, 54 percent to 16 percent.

Also, more than 61 percent of those polled said they had never heard of Harold.

And while almost 21 percent of the likely GOP voters said they had never heard of Davis (they consider themselves likely voters but they don't know their congressman?), another 50.6 percent said they approve of him.

That means that of the Republican voters who know Davis, a big majority likes him. And that's a lot for Harold to overcome.

"I've never seen numbers like this turn around, absent some cataclysmic scandal. It just doesn't happen," said Gregg Durham of the We Ask America polling firm, which did the poll for the CapitolFax.com political website.

"If you had a guy who was in trouble or wasn't doing his job, it might be different," Durham said. "But the reports I'm hearing is that he's doing pretty well and that he's working his tail off."

And Harold has said she won't run a negative campaign, Durham noted.

"You put all that together and then (Harold) comes in but she says she's not going to be negative in what can be a very tough business where the thing that seemingly works best is to tear someone else down," Durham said. "I just don't think it's in her blood to be negative. This is not Phyllis Schlafly or Anne Coulter. She's not just a beauty queen but the queen of nice. I don't think she's predisposed for the kind of venomous personality it can take in a situation like this."

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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rsp wrote on June 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Maybe someone will be mean for her, like in the last race. 

wayward wrote on June 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Harold's never run for office, so I assume that you're talking about Davis vs Gill in 2012.  Sure, there's always the possibility of a third party attacking, but they have to be willing to spend the money to buy the ads.

Political Observer wrote on June 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Is the "Davis/Harold Poll" section in this article some kind of gag...or a really late April Fool's joke, perhaps?

The "big bucket of cold water" that was "tossed on the Harold campaign last week" must have been borrowed from the Harlem Globetrotters, because all that came out of the bucket was a bunch of colorful confetti that Tom Kacich seems to have been fooled into thinking was cold water!  That's because the guy in the clown costume heaving the contents of the bucket at the audience was Greg Durham, and he's not a real pollster...he's a Republican political activist who heads up a PR firm that’s designed to do advocacy for the Illinois Manufacturer’s Association...and he's quite famous for his fake polls and their wild inaccuracy!  If this seems like "Deja vu all over again!"...well, it is!...and here's a link to an earlier discussion regarding another one of Greg Durham's fake polls:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2012-11-10/hartman-pollster-downplay-role-13th-outcome.html#comment-492903  The duo of Greg Baise and Greg Durham at the Illinois Manufacturer's Association have been playing dirty tricks on Illinois for quite some time.  Maybe sometime Kacich should do some real reporting and tell us about the straw groups they like to set up, where Group 1 doesn't have to report their contributors, so they can shield where their money comes from, then Group 1 makes big donations to Group 2 so that Group 2 can in turn give big donations in judicial races to elect judges who'll rule in favor of their friends.  (Their favorite judges have to disclose that they took money from Group 2, but on the financial disclosure forms they fill out that appears as just the name of some "astroturf group"...i.e. a "fake grassroots" group started by one or the other of the Gregs that's supposed to represent some "concerned citizens group"...with the names of the original donors having already been laundered away through the use of [Straw] Group 1.)

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on June 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm
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Kacich transmits raw data, not analysis of data. 

 

I agree with you that it's bad, but there's a silver lining: If you make up a poll, and send a press release to the NG, he'll probably run it.

jeffh wrote on June 17, 2013 at 3:06 am

From what others have said here this poll seems to be at least a little suspect.

I don't live in the area any longer, but from what I've seen Harold has a lot of charisma, plus exceptional credentials and can relate and connect with people. Davis, while apparently a good man and a solid, hard working legislator, may not match that charisma -- and the Republican party could use a little charisma right now.  

So I wouldn't write Harold off quite so soon.  If she can meet enough voters, I think she might be able to connect with enough of them to be a formidable candidate.  

And nothing against Davis, but it might just be her time.