May 10, 2023 - Politics

Iowa's campaign reporting fines frustrate former candidate

An ice pack made from a $100 bill on top of a person's head.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

A former political candidate says the process of filing campaign reports to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board was riddled with technical difficulties, resulting in a late filing and subsequent $100 fine.

Driving the news: The board is trying to recover thousands of dollars from a backlog of unpaid fines levied to candidates but there’s no consequence in state law for not paying.

  • It also had used an antiquated system that made it difficult for people to even know if they had a fine.

State of play: The board underwent technology upgrades, including adding a new reporting system in March 2022.

Zoom in: Gary Overla, a teacher in Perry who ran an unsuccessful campaign for an Iowa House seat last year as a Democrat, says the process to file the report was not user-friendly.

  • He plans to pay fines in person at the board's office when he has the time.

What they're saying: The campaign process was so cumbersome, "I'll never run for office again," Overla says.

The other side: There were initially some minor glitches to the new reporting system but the board waived all penalties in those situations, executive director Zach Goodrich tells Axios.

  • Overla — who also received a separate $50 fine — was told he had 30 days to request a waiver, which he did not, Goodrich says.
  • The board was unaware of Overla's technical difficulties until contacted by Axios, Goodrich notes, but the former candidate had successfully used the new system to file earlier reports.

What's next: The board wants to pass legislation next year to help modernize its policies and codes.


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