October 7, 2022

The Nerve

Where Government Gets Exposed

U.S. Rep. Mace owes $11.5K in S.C. House ethics fines

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By RICK BRUNDRETT

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, who is an ex-S.C. House member, owes a total of $11,500 in civil fines to the state House Ethics Committee for campaign reporting violations related to her former position, according to the committee’s top lawyer.

The total includes a $600 fine for the late filing of a campaign report due last month, Jane Shuler, the committee’s chief legal counsel, said in a written response this week to The Nerve’s questions about Mace’s fines.

An online list of House Ethics Committee fines, which was last updated in December, shows that Mace was separately fined $5,100 last year for the late filing of campaign reports due in January and April, plus another $700 for the late filing of a report due in July.

The online lists shows the status of Mace’s fines as “unsatisfied.” The Nerve last June reported about one of Mace’s $5,100 fines – the maximum fine allowed under state law for each violation.

Mace was among 43 individuals fined a total of $509,968 by the ethics committee since January 2012, though some fines were later reduced or waived, The Nerve found in a review of the latest online list, which was dated Dec. 17.

At The Nerve’s request, Shuler this week released five committee letters to Mace about her fines, including a letter last August from state Rep. Jay Jordan, R-Florence, who is the committee chairman, warning her if the then-$10,900 total fine was not paid within 30 days, the debt could be submitted to the S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) for collection under a state law that allows the agency to deduct certain debts from income tax refunds.

Jordan in the Aug. 9 letter said the SCDOR also has the authority to collect Mace’s debt through the “garnishment of wages, seizure of bank accounts, sales of real and personal property, and the revocation of any license.”

Asked this week how much the ethics committee has recovered to date from the SCDOR, Shuler in an email response said: “We just submitted her fines owed to DOR through the setoff debt program in late 2021 for her 2022 tax return. Thus, we have not received anything yet from DOR for Mace’s fines.”

Shuler also said, in response to a question about what Mace has communicated to the committee about her fines, that the “only communication from Mace was the filing of her late CD (campaign disclosure) reports,” noting those reports are posted on the State Ethics Commission’s website.

Mace didn’t respond to a phone message Thursday from The Nerve seeking comment. John Seibels, Mace’s press secretary in her Washington, D.C., office, didn’t respond to written questions Thursday about whether Mace agreed with the fines and whether she intended to pay the debt.

Rank-and-file members of Congress make $174,000 annually.

So why was Mace, a Berkeley County Republican who was elected to the S.C. House in a 2018 special election and won her first congressional term in 2020, fined by the S.C. House Ethics Committee after she was no longer a state lawmaker?

Shuler in her email response said until a former candidate for a state House seat files his or her final campaign disclosure report with a “$0 balance for contributions on hand,” the candidate “must continue to file a CD report.”

“We encourage former candidates to file a Final CD report and dispose of the remaining contributions so they are not continuing to file CD reports,” Shuler said.

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.

In the first three letters sent last year to Mace, the House Ethics Committee informed her that each required quarterly campaign report “has not been filed and is late.” The most recent letter, dated Jan. 19 of this year, informed her that the 2021 fourth-quarter report was “filed late,” adding, “You must continue to file quarterly reports until you file a Final CD Report.”

State Ethics Commission records show that Mace filed four campaign reports last June 5 – the day after The Nerve’s first story on her fines. In her latest campaign report, which was submitted on Feb. 3 and covered the fourth quarter last year, she listed a total of $15,606 in contributions on hand at the end of that filing period.

UPDATE: 2/14/22 – The House Ethics Committee updated its fines list on 2/11/22, the same day this story was published. The latest list can be found here.

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-394-8273 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

Nerve stories are free to reprint and repost with permission by and credit to The Nerve.

 

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