New campaign finance violations found at GEC - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

New campaign finance violations found at GEC

Posted: Apr 12, 2018 11:05 AM Updated:

The Guam Election Commission board is expected to advise GEC staff on how to proceed with a slew of political candidates’ questionable donations and expenditures at their board meeting tonight.

The apparent violations – documented in KUAM News stories – range from over the limit contributions to questionable spending of campaign funds.

And everyone – from senators to gubernatorial candidates – seems to be in on the action.

The BOTA team of Tenorio/Ada has had information from their campaign finance report flagged for review by the GEC board.

Over the limit donations from individuals and RKM Property group raising eyebrows at GEC.

An examination of gubernatorial candidate Senator Dennis Rodriguez’s 2016 campaign finance reports show “sponsorships” and “donations” to various community organizations like the Lion’s Club, Guam Women’s Club, Korean Women’s Association, Miss Earth Guam, Little Miss Sampaguita and the Filipino Ladies Association of Guam.

 “We will work closely with GEC to clarify this,” said Rodriguez.

There is no statute of limitations on campaign finance violations, but with a short staff and a lack of funding, GEC hasn’t been able to enforce violations – or until recently - even look for them.

Senator Tommy Morrison finds himself under scrutiny after he admitted to KUAM News he used campaign funds to donate to charities and community organizations.

 “The Special Olympics, Guam Moms Helping Moms, American Cancer Society, youth organizations and many sports teams,” Morrison said. “It’s hard for us to say no.”

Spending campaign cash on anything that doesn’t directly promote a candidate or a campaign?

 “That’s maybe saying you’re buying a vote,” GEC Director Maria Pangelinan said.

Morrison says buying votes was not his intention when he gave donations – and he argues giving money to charities hasn’t helped him at the polls – after a strong finish in his first campaign, he’s finished lower every election.

 “In my first term, I was a top 5 vote getter,” Morrison said. “Over the years, with the contributions, it doesn’t seem to be buying any votes – and it was never intended to.”

Morrison isn’t the only one being looked at.

Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks’ questionable spending of campaign funds spurred the GEC to send her a letter asking for clarification.

An examination of Brooks’ campaign finance reports revealed she gave OPA employees gifts and cash and even gave chinchule with campaign cash.

Senator Michael San Nicolas, ironically the GEC’s legislative oversight chair, received a $3,000 donation from Coretech and over-the-limit donations from the Lujan family.

Regarding a donation thousands of dollars over the legal limit - Legislative Majority Leader Senator Tom Ada told KUAM News someone like San Nicolas should’ve known better.

“It’s your campaign, it’s your campaign funds – you’ve got to manage it,” Ada said.

San Nicolas, who is currently running for Congress, did not return calls for comment.

GEC oversight vice chair Senator Mary Torres declined to comment. Legislative ethics committee chair Senator Fernando Esteves declined to comment as well.

Senator Jim Espaldon is also the subject of scrutiny for his donations to sports teams and his acceptance of over the limit donations from EMPSCO and NC Macario and Associates.

Espaldon did not return calls for comment.

Morrison says how candidates can spend campaign funds should be reexamined, because he’s not the only one breaking the rules.

“I think many of my colleagues – even in past legislatures – know exactly what I’m talking about,” Morrison said.

Buying car wash tickets, medical fundraiser tickets or giving donations to individuals or charities “does not directly promote a campaign,” Pangelinan said.

Copies of KUAM News stories have been given to GEC board members for review, and it’s likely these issues will either be discussed in the “campaign finance” section of the meeting or behind closed doors in executive session.

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