The Missouri Ethics Commission has ruled against the Citizens for Growth committee and their treasurer Gene Schwartz, regarding campaign finance violations that occurred in the April 2012 Neosho City Council election.
In a consent order filed Tuesday, April 2, and signed by Dennis Rose, chair of the Missouri Ethics Commission, Schwartz and Citizens for Growth were ordered to pay a fee of $300 within 45 days of the consent order, or $3,000 if not paid within 45 days.
The order also notes that any further violations of campaign finance laws could also require full payment of the $3,000 fee.
Citizens for Growth supported city council candidates Michael Franks, Bill Crowe and Andrew Hamby in the 2012 race, when they challenged incumbents Richard Davidson, Steve Hart and David Ruth.
While the challengers were unsuccessful in their council bids, the ethics commission's report shows that each candidate received financial backing from Citizens for Growth.
According to the report, expenditures supporting Franks totaled $2,606.74, while $656.54 was spent supporting Crowe and $383.53 was spent supporting Hamby.
The Ethics Commission order states that Schwartz and Citizens for Growth violated sections 130.021.5, 130.011, 130.046, 130.046(7) of Missouri Revised Statutes.
The report states that Citizens for Growth is a continuing committee formed on or about March 16, 2012, after spending $865.80 on yard signs, though the committee registered with its local election authority as a campaign committee on or about April 20, 2012.
"Respondents failed to form the committee more than 60 ethics days prior to the April 3, 2012 election, but participated in that election by purchasing the yard signs that support and/or opposed certain local candidates," the report reads. "Because the signs supported local candidates other than judges under the non-partisan court plan, respondents should have filed a statement of committee organization with the county clerk and the Missouri Ethics Commission as a continuing committee, but respondents filed a statement of committee organization with the county clerk as a campaign committee."
In addition, the report also notes that the committee failed to timely file the "40 days before" report, due on Feb. 23, 2012, the "eight days before" report, due March 26, 2012, and the "April 2012" quarterly report, due on April 16, 2012.
The report identifies a continuing committee as being of continuing existence, not controlled, formed or directed by a candidate, and whose primary purpose is to receive contributions or make expenditures to influence or attempt to influence the action of voters, while a campaign committee has a sole purpose of supporting or opposing the qualification and passage of one or more particular ballot measures or the retention of judges under the nonpartisan court plan.
"There is probable cause to believe that respondents Schwartz and Citizens for Growth violated sections 130.021.5, 130.011, and 130.046, RSMo, by failing to timely [file] a statement of committee organization, failing to accurately file a statement of committee organization, participating in an election less than 60 days after becoming a continuing committee and failing to timely file three campaign finance disclosure reports, and that Respondents Schwartz and Citizens for Growth did so knowingly," the report states.
Page 2 of 2 - According to the report, an investigation by the ethics commission's staff began after a complaint was filed with the commission.
The commission also noted that Schwartz was the treasurer of citizens for growth "at all relevant times."
Schwartz declined comment on Saturday.