Douglas County clerk: Justice Matters is required to file campaign finance report

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 7, 2018, a stack of mail-in ballots sits at the Douglas County Courthouse.

Story updated 9:19 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019:

After what Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew called a misunderstanding, a local coalition of faith-based organizations is on track to file a report detailing how much they spent to campaign against a county sales tax proposal.

The Journal-World reported Sunday that Justice Matters was more than 30 days past due to file an account of its expenditures for its campaign, which was one of several that formed in the spring of 2018 in opposition to Proposition 1, a sales tax that would have funded an expansion of the Douglas County Jail, among other things.

Shew said he met with representatives of Justice Matters on Tuesday. The organization files its annual federal tax forms with the IRS, and Shew said representatives thought that was sufficient for their involvement in the local election since the group is not a formal political action committee.

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State law, however, says any organization or individual who participates in a special question campaign, regardless of status, must file a simple receipt and expenditure report with the local election office.

“They thought they had it covered, but we were able to get it all solved,” Shew said, noting that he expects to receive the report in the next couple of weeks.

Shew said the county had received reports from some other groups opposed to the sales tax, including Americans for Prosperity and the Lawrence Sunset Alliance.

“Sometimes it takes a little digging to figure out what all organizations are involved, so we kind of depend on them to self-report to us,” Shew said.

State statute dictates that “delinquent” groups with reports more than 30 days overdue could face prosecution for a Class A misdemeanor and a fine of up to $1,000.

Shew said Tuesday that he wanted to clarify that he has no intention to fine Justice Matters — or any group, “as long as the group doesn’t act like they intend to violate the law.”

Justice Matters Co-President Rose Schmidt, in a brief phone call late Tuesday, referred the Journal-World to a statement Shew posted to Facebook earlier Tuesday afternoon. Along with the explanation of the situation that he gave the Journal-World, Shew wrote, “While doing research on this question, we found the same question had been posed by the Lawrence Arts Center in 1988 which resulted in an (attorney general) Opinion which supported that all organizations have to file.”


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