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Campaign complaints are taken seriously

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Column by Linda Ireland

By Linda Ireland

About a month ago, we received a “Just Ask” question by e-mail: “Is it true that (some of the local candidates) broke campaign laws with their signs and newspaper advertisements?”

The person asking the question did not provide their name or contact number.

Without more information, we were unable to file a complaint with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. The person we spoke to at KREF said the agency takes complaints about campaign violations under KRS 121 very seriously and provided a link to a pair of brochures on their Web site.

Here are the highlights of those brochures “How to File a Complaint” and “How to Request an Advisory Opinion.”

Any person may file a complaint if he believes a violation has occurred. The complaint must be in writing and mailed to the Office of the General Counsel, Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, 140 Walnut St., Frankfort, KY 40601.

The complaint must provide the full name and address of the person who files the complaint. It must clearly identify each person alleged to commit a violation. It must be sworn to and signed in the presence of a notary public. Statements contained in the complaint shall be made under penalty of perjury.

Complaints must differentiate between statements based on personal knowledge and statements based on information and belief. Statements that are not based on personal knowledge must identify the source of information.

The complaint must contain a clear recitation of the facts that support the allegation and include documentation if available.

After the complaint is received, the General Counsel notifies the respondent (candidate charged with violation). The respondent has 15 days to provide a written response.

The General Counsel then conducts an investigation and makes recommendations for action, if any. The respondent will be notified in writing.

The respondent could be required to comply by ceasing violations; file reports or documentation or pay a penalty not to exceed $100 a day up to $5,000.

Advisory opinions

Advisory opinions also may be sought at the same address. Any person can request an opinion about campaign law, but the request must be in writing and clearly identify the person involved in the activity. General questions, questions posing a hypothetical situation or regarding third-party actions are not considered.

More information is available at www.kref.ky.gov or by calling 502-573-2226.

Fraud hotline

Another service is the attorney general’s Election Fraud Hotline at 1-800-328-VOTE (800-328-8683). The hotline is available throughout the year during normal business hours. In the primary, there were 60 calls from 28 counties to the hotline. There were no complaints of vote buying. The presidential election in 2004 resulted in 52 pre-election complaints, 123 Election Day complaints and 26 post-election complaints. Seventeen of those complaints were referred for review or investigation. No charges were filed. Attorneys from the attorney general’s office process the hotline complaints and refer them out for investigation to the Kentucky State Police, the State Board of Elections, county clerks, local law enforcement or the OAG’s Department of Criminal Investigations.

Check with County Clerk Linda Carter about general election concerns or information at 358-3544.