The state Board of Elections is stepping up its enforcement efforts against scofflaw campaign committees by moving to freeze their bank accounts.
The board’s enforcement division will send out dozens of letters by the end of the week to representatives of committees that have sustained judgments for infractions of election law, and the banks that hold their funds. Couched in legalese, the message to violators boils down to this: Your campaign cash is off-limits until the debt — plus interest — is settled, or a judge decides otherwise.
The action was discussed last Thursday at a meeting of the Board of Elections commissioners at which outgoing Enforcement Unit counsel Liz Hogan advised Douglas Kellner, the board’s Democratic co-chair, that the letters were almost ready to be mailed.
The board provided the Times Union with generic copies of both letters and accompanying “information subpoenas,” which in the case of each debtor includes four pages of questions about assets and other financial matters that must be filled out and returned. Disobeying the restraining notice can expose the recipient to a contempt-of-court charge, the letter warns.
Board spokesman John Conklin said roughly 30 percent of court-ordered judgments are paid without additional action.
To deal with the remainder, he said in an email, “There has been a long-standing discussion about whether we have the resources or statutory authority to take additional efforts to collect those unpaid judgments. When we know a committee has funds in their accounts, Commissioner Kellner has pushed to have additional action taken against those committees.”
While this “more rigorous collection process” will initially be deployed against a small test group of a few dozen committees, Conklin said it could eventually become standard for all those with unsatisfied judgments — 4,425 entities since 2007.
The new strategy is being tried as the board faces scrutiny for …read more