Update: Judge rolls back clock, ethics fine
Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr. (right) should pay a sharply reduced fine for campaign disclosure violations, a judge has recommended.
The judge ruled that McDonald’s campaign committed 169 violations of disclosure requirements after his losing 2002 campaign for the PSC, as investigators for the State Ethics Commission had contended.
But administrative law judge Ray Gatto said none of the violations were “election-sensitive” because they occurred after the 2002 campaign was over. Many of the violations were technical defects warranting a fine of only $50 apiece, he said.
Overall, if Gatto’s order is accepted by the State Ethics Commission, McDonald would pay a fine of $13,450 from personal funds. The commission’s staff had called for a penalty of $28,300. The commission has until early June to decide whether to accept the recommendation.
Gatto’s order noted that the commission imposes much tougher fines today than it did when it opened the case in 2004. McDonald therefore therefore should pay the lower fines that were typical at that time, he ruled.
At a March 23 administrative hearing, McDonald acknowledged that his campaign:
— Failed to report $46,000 in contributions, mostly from law firms and phone company executives, and $76,000 in spending
— Filed its final 2002 financial report 13 months late, and then amended it three times with more information
— Reported his campaign account “zeroed out” at the end of 2002 when it really held about $8,000.
— Reimbursed him $2,928, and paid $618 for credit card charges, without specifying how the money was spent.
— Skipped filing four campaign reports in 2003 and 2004 altogether.
— Provided no employment information or addresses for nearly six dozen contributors.
McDonald was appointed to fill a vacancy on the PSC in 1998 but lost a 2002 bid for re-election. He ran again and won in 2008.