Apr 26, 2023 - Politics

Iowa politicians owe thousands in unpaid campaign fines

Illustration of a checkmark made from one hundred dollar bills

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Dozens of Iowa politicians and former candidates have failed to pay thousands of dollars in fines for campaign ethics violations — but there's little power the state has to go after them.

Why it matters: The fines, levied for things like late filings or failing to attribute political signs, are used to hold politicians accountable while campaigning. They contribute to Iowa's general fund.

State of play: In March 2022, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board underwent technology upgrades that made it easier to sift through candidate information, as well as their fines.

By the numbers: Some of the fees go back decades and people have died before settling the fines, Goodrich says. He estimates they total under $100K, with the majority of individual fees under $100.

Between the lines: While enforcement is an issue, another problem is that some candidates may not even know they've been levied a fine.

What's happening now: Goodrich tried to pass a bill through the Legislature that would create penalties for unpaid fines and more enforcement power, but it died this session.

  • Internally, the office is sending out letters to people with fines and notifying them online of delinquent fees. These efforts have quadrupled payments, Goodrich says.
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