U.S. Rep. Mace among those owing S.C. House ethics fines
By RICK BRUNDRETT
Ex-S.C. House member Nancy Mace, who was elected last year to Congress, owes a $5,100 civil fine imposed by the state House Ethics Committee for a campaign reporting violation related to her former position, according to an updated fines list released this week after The Nerve’s inquiry.
The list, updated Tuesday on the Legislature’s website, shows that Mace, a Berkeley County Republican who was elected to the S.C. House in a 2018 special election, was fined on Jan. 21 of this year for “late/not filed campaign disclosure.” The status of the $5,100 fine was listed as “unsatisfied,” or unpaid.
The list gives no further details of the campaign reporting violation. Other state records show that Mace last filed a state campaign report in October 2020.
Neither Mace, who was elected in November to her U.S. House seat, nor Natalie Johnson, a spokeswoman in Mace’s Washington, D.C., office, responded to written or phone messages this week from The Nerve.
State Rep. Jay Jordan, R-Florence, who is chairman of the House Ethics Committee, referred The Nerve’s questions to Jane Shuler, the committee’s chief attorney, who said this morning that the $5,100 fine against Mace is the maximum amount allowed under state law if a candidate fails to file a required report or files it after a long time period.
Generally, state law requires candidates to file reports, which list contributions and expenses, every quarter if they have open campaign accounts. Failure to do so can result in an initial civil fine of $100, which increases by $10 daily for the first 10 calendar days if the report remains unfiled after notification and $100 for each additional calendar day if the violation continues, up to a maximum $5,000.
Shuler said the committee sends letters notifying candidates of their fines and also tries to call them. Under state law, the House and Senate ethics committees police members of their respective chambers for ethics violations.
Last month, The Nerve revealed that two sitting House members – Reps. Cezar McKnight, D-Williamsburg, and Carl Anderson, D-Georgetown, owed the Senate Ethics Committee $59,150 and $6,000 in civil fines, respectively, for campaign reporting violations stemming from their unsuccessful primary election campaigns in 2014 for a Senate seat.
Both the Senate and House ethics committees under state law can collect unpaid fines through the S.C. Department of Revenue’s debt-collection program, which involves deductions from income tax refunds.
Although Mace’s fine was imposed on Jan. 21 of this year, it was not included on the House Ethics Committee’s online fines list that previously was updated on Feb. 23. After initially being contacted last week by The Nerve about whether the list would be updated, Shuler said staff planned to work on it this week.
Mace’s last state campaign report was filed on Oct. 15, 2020, according to State Ethics Commission records, which show that she had $15,942 in contributions on hand then.
The Nerve’s review of the House Ethics Committee’s updated fines list found that 57 individuals, including Mace, had a total of $461,310 in “unsatisfied,” or unpaid, fines, with amounts owed by individual candidates ranging from $100 to a total of $41,353.
But the list also shows that cases against several candidates, including John Kevin Owens, who collectively owed the highest amount, were “administratively closed.” Shuler said those cases are closed when the committee hasn’t been able to contact candidates for more than a year, and verifies there is a zero balance in their campaign accounts.
The Nerve on Thursday was unable to reach Owens, who lost to Rep. Bill Chumley of Spartanburg County in the 2012 Republican primary election. His last campaign report was filed in July 2012, State Ethics Commission records show.
Contacted Thursday by The Nerve, T’Nae Parker of Richland County, who was fined a collective $41,100 from July 2018 to January of this year – the second-highest individual amount on the fines list – said her fines are out of proportion compared to the total amount of campaign donations she received in her 2018 unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign against Rep. Leon Howard.
Parker’s last campaign report filed with the State Ethics Commission in May 2018 shows that she raised a total of $1,620 in contributions and had a negative balance at the end of the reporting period.
“It was my first time running for office,” she said. “I didn’t even raise a lot of money.”
Asked if she had closed her campaign account, Parker replied, “I don’t remember closing it, but I was never told I needed to close it.”
Parker said the state campaign-reporting website is “not an easy site to navigate,” and that there are no report training classes for new candidates.
“It should be simple,” she said. “It’s not conducive to people who want to get into this space and run.”
Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.
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