Election Board, Friends of Good Government investigation

Candidates Wendy Davis, Lewis Griffin and Judge Ken Scheibenberger.

The Allen County Election Board is currently investigating a complaint filed by Judge Ken Scheibenberger.  The AFW webmaster’s thoughts follow the letters.

Judge Scheibenberger was defeated by challenger Wendy Davis for the Allen County Superior Court Criminal Division Judge seat back in the November election.  The election was highly contentious and one of the more interesting judicial races in quite some time.

Following is a series of letters between the Judge Scheibenberger and the Election Board and the Election Board and Richard Runestad.  These were in reference to a Political Action Committee called, Friends of Good Government, which paid for air time for commercials supporting Wendy Davis.  The commercials aired on WOWO and WANE-15.  Judicial candidates are allowed to spend no more than $10,000 on their campaign.

On October 29, 2010, Judge Scheibenberger sent a letter to the Election Board to formally complain about the issue.  Here is the text of that initial letter:

 

COMPLAINT

The undersigned believes that the following groups or organizations have violated the campaign finance laws of the State of Indiana:

Friends of Good Government Wendy Davis for Judge Committee

Friends of Good Government have violated the laws by not filing as a Political Action Committee as required by the law and have made campaign expenditures favoring the election of Wendy Davis and/or the defeat of Ken Scheibenberger in violation of those laws.

Wendy Davis for Judge Committee has violated the campaign finance laws by accepting campaign contributions from Friends of Good Government, a PAC, in violation of campaign finance laws.

Signed by Kenneth R. Scheibenberger on October 29, 2010.

 

There was some media coverage on the subject in early November. In response to the media coverage, Judge Scheibenberger wrote a second letter to the Election Board:

 

November 15, 2010

Allen County Election Board City-County Building

Fort Wayne, IN 46802

Dear Election Board:

After seeing media reports regarding my complaint, I would like to clarify the substance of that complaint.

Not only is my complaint against Friends for Good Government, but also against the Wendy Davis Campaign Committee. The Indiana Code prevents candidates from accepting “more than a total of $10,000 in contributions from all sources to pay expenses connected with his candidacy.” The actions of the Friends for Good Government in purchasing radio and television advertisements, as well as campaign signs, qualify as in­ kind contributions. It is my belief that those expenses, when added to the Wendy Davis Campaign Committee, place that committee over the $10,000 limit. Not only is this a violation of the election laws, but is also a criminal violation. Ms. Davis was aware of the actions of the Friends. I personally notified her of this prior to any ads being played.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Cc: Zach Klutz Therese Brown Andrew Boxberger

 

On November 19, 2010, the Allen County Election Board sent a letter to the Friends of Good Government:

 

November 19, 2010

Friends of Good Government Committee
Attention: Richard Runestad, Chairperson
[address omitted by AFW]

Re: Election Board Complaint

Dear Mr. Runestad:

As you are aware, a Complaint was filed with the Allen County Election Board on October 29, 2010 by Kenneth R. Scheibenberger, as supplemented by additional correspondence from Mr. Scheibenberger dated November 15, 2010. A copy of the Complaint and subsequent correspondence are enclosed for your review.

The initial Complaint alleges, among other things, that the Friends of Good Government violated unspecified laws by not filing as a political action committee and made campaign expenditures favoring the election of Wendy Davis and/or the defeat of Ken Scheibenberger in violation of the law. The Allen County Election Board made a preliminary finding on November 1, 2010 that it did not have sufficient information to determine whether any of the alleged violations occurred. Subsequently, on November 3, 2010 a CFA-2 Political Action Committee Statement of Organization for Friends of Good Government was filed showing a committee organization date of October 28, 2010. Operating under the assumption that the Friends of Good Government committee was organized on October 28, 2010, the CFA-2 was timely filed with our office pursuant to Indiana Code § 3-9-1-3.

It is the duty and responsibility of the Allen County Election to investigate formal complaints properly filed before the Board. In an effort to obtain the necessary information to determine the merits, if any, of the Complaint filed, the Allen County Election Board hereby requests the following information from you as Chairperson of the Friends of Good Government committee:

(1) Please provide the Allen County Election Board the date in which the Friends of Good Government first received and accepted contributions to such political action committee;

(2) Please provide the Allen County Election Board the date in which the Friends of Good Government made its first expenditure for the purpose of influencing the election or defeat of a candidate for statewide, state legislative, local or school board office or the outcome of a public question that appeared on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Allen County;

(3) To the extent any direct monetary contributions were made by the Friends of Good Government political action committee to the Wendy for Judge Committee, please provide the Allen County Election Board with the date such contribution(s) was made and the amount of such contribution(s);

(4) To the extent any political advertising including, without limitation, television, radio or print materials (including political signs), was paid for by the Friends of Good Government political action committee since the committee’s October 28, 2010 inception, please provide the Allen County Election Board the complete text of any disclaimer(s) included or provided on such political advertising materials; and

(5) To the extent political materials (as defined above) were paid for by the Friends of Good Government political action committee, please indicate whether any such political materials were designed, coordinated, reviewed, consented to, or approved by the Wendy Davis for Judge Committee.

Although Indiana Code § 3-6-5-27 provides that a County Election Board may subpoena persons and papers and compel witnesses to answer under oath any questions that properly come before an Election Board, it is our desire to obtain the information requested herein without resorting to such procedures. We would appreciate receiving the information responsive to our requests within ten (10) business days. If additional time is necessary, or, in the event you do not wish to respond to the requests, we would appreciate you contacting us within such ten (10) business day time frame to notify us of such request or decision.

We appreciate your cooperation with this matter. In the event you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact any of the Allen County Election Board Members listed above.

Sincerely,
Allen County Election Board

 

On November 28, 2010, the following letter was sent by Runestad to the Election Board:

 

Friends of Good Government

Richard Runestad, Chairman
Jennifer Runestad, Treasurer
[address omitted by AFW]

November 28, 2010

Zachary E. Klutz

Allen County Election Board 1 E. Main Street, Room 136 Fort Wayne, IN 46802-1811

Re: Election Board Complaint

Dear Mr. Klutz:

I first want to address an accusation made by Kenneth Scheibenberger that Friends of Good Government had involvement with political signs put up by a group or individual other than the Wendy Davis for Judge Committee.

Friends of Good Government did not pay for, put up, or have any involvement with the political signs referred to in Mr. Scheibenberger’s complaint. Furthermore, we have no idea who did purchase those signs.

Friends of Good Government is a simple PAC that made only two expenditures, one for the WOWO ads and the other for the WANE TV ads.

In answer to Mr. Scheibenberger’s complaint, we did not coordinate our ads in any way with Wendy Davis or her campaign, and we filed our CF A-2 well within the 10-day period we were allotted.

We would appreciate it if the Election Board would inform us of its conclusion on this complaint at its earliest possible convenience.

Following is our responses to your November 19;2010 letter.  [Webmaster’s note: The quoted questions from the Election Board appear in bold print.]

1) Please provide the Allen County Election Board the date in which the Friends of Good Government first received and accepted contributions to such political action committee;

The Friends of Good Government reserved airtime for advertisements on October 27, 2010, all of which were paid for by the first contributions received by the Friends of Good Government. Advertisements began nmning on WOWO on Thursday, October 28, 2010. On Friday, October 29,2010, advertisements began running on WANE TV.

2) Please provide the Allen County Election Board the date in which the Friends of Good Government made its first expenditure for the purpose of influencing the election or defeat of a candidate for statewide, state legislative, local or school board office or the outcome of a public question that appeared on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Allen County;

As stated above, Friends of Good Governments first expenditure coincided with its first contribution.

3) To the extent any direct monetary contributions were made by the Friends of Good Government political action committee to the Wendy for Judge Committee, please provide the Allen County Election Board with the date such contribution(s) was made and the amount of such contribution(s);

The Friends of Good Government never made any direct monetary contributions to the Wendy for Judge Committee.

4) To the extent any political advertising including, without limitation, television, radio or print materials (including political signs), was paid for by the Friends of Good Government political action committee since the committee’s Octover 28, 2010 inception, please provide the Allen County Election Board the complete text of any disclaimer(s) included or provided on such political advertising materials; and

The advertisements referenced above were the only political advertising conducted by the Friends of Good Government. The Friends of Good Government’s advertisements were accompanied by the following disclaimer:

Paid for by the Friends of Good Government,

Not Authorized by the Davis for Judge Campaign.

5) To the extent political materials (as defined above) were paid for by the Friends of Good Government political action committee, please indicate whether any such political materials were designed, coordinated, reviewed, consented to, or approved by the Wendy Davis for Judge Committee.

None of the advertisements run by the Friends of Good Government were designed, coordinated, reviewed, consented to, or approved by the Wendy Davis for Judge Committee.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Richard Runestad, Chairman

 

On December 6, 2010, the following letter was sent by Runestad to the Election Board:

 

Friends of Good Government
[Address and phone number omitted by AFW]

Richard Runestad, Chairman
Jennifer Runestad, Treasurer

December 6, 2010

Allen County Election Board

Re: Amendment of CFA-2

Dear Sir or Madam:

Enclosed is an Amended CF A-2 for the Friends of Good Government political action committee. It is my understanding that a File Number has yet to be assigned to the Friends of Good Government.

The Amended CFA-2 is being amended to more accurately reflect the date of organization. Although advertisements purchased by the Friends of Good Government did not begin running until October 28,2010, our organization reserved the airtime on October 27,2010. Therefore, the Amended CFA-2 shows the date of organization as October 27,2010.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Sincerely,

Richard Runestad, Chairman

 

One of the campaign signs in question:

 

Webmaster’s note:  The following are my thoughts on this subject, nothing more.

There are a few questions that are still unanswered:

  1. First, I did not see the ads, so I’ve no idea how involved a production they were.  However, if the Friends of Good Government organized on October 28th, er 27th as corrected by an Amended CFA-2, that is very little time to produce a commercial, let alone organize anything.  Audio might be able to come together that quickly, but a video commercial?  The timeline on this is too short.
  2. If the Friends of Good Government didn’t pay for some of the political yard signs that were showing up around town, who did?
  3. Perhaps the laws regarding creations of PAC’s needs to be tightened.  Currently, a PAC has to file a statement of organization IC 3-9-1-1.5 and IC 3-9-1-3

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m so tired of hearing how ‘contentious’ this race was! Thank you Steven for another mostly unbiased report on this story. The fact of the matter is Judge Scheibenberger played by the rules and the Wendy Davis supporters did not. She even lied directly to my face.
    I would love to see justice get served in this matter but I feel that it will not because that is the nature of Allen County politics.

    I’m thankful to the new friends I met along the way and that I found out which friends were disloyal. I’m thankful for each and every one of the over 30,000 that voted for Judge Scheibenberger. Most of all I’m thankful that I probably will never have to read about my “dead brother” in the newspaper again!

    God Bless!

  2. The race certainly wasn’t convivial or friendly or conducive or anything positive. Controversial hits it right on the head.

    It’s too bad we don’t live in a truly just or righteous world because if that had been the case, Lewis Griffin would have won and left both of their butts out in the cold! Hopefully Davis will not be in the public headlines much more so we won’t have to be subjected to either any longer.

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