In late March, just before the April 7 election, the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce Direct Givers gave money to three Madison Common Council candidates: $550 to Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, $900 to Hamilton Arendsen and $1,300 to Bridget Maniaci. (Bidar-Sielaff beat Arendsen for an open seat, and Maniaci ousted Brenda Konkel.)
These were "conduit" donations by chamber members passed on by the organization. But donations of more than $500 within two weeks of an election require a special report, which the chamber failed to make.
Delora Newton, the chamber's executive vice president, says the group thought the law only applied to state candidates and "did not intentionally violate campaign finance law."
In an email to Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, Debra Schmidt of the City Clerk's Office writes that "reporting late contributions, after an election has occurred, circumvents the intent of the law.This information is clearly time sensitive.Any organization can make the claim that the omission was unintentional and thereby avoid reporting pertinent information, in a timely way, that may influence a voter's choice."
While Schmidt does not claim the violation was intentional, an email to Blanchard asks, "[S]hould ignorance of the law exempt violators? If so, who is not exempt?" (For the email exchance, see here.)
Blanchard doesn't plan on taking action, according to his email reply to Schmidt: "This office does not have nearlythe resources to pursue intentional violations of the law regularly referred here by police, and so we certainly lack resources to pursue accidental or inadvertent violations."