“Trick or Treat[?]!”

October 31, 2006   •  By Steve Hoersting   •    •  
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Soon beggars and goblins will be ringing the doorbells of fawning families everywhere, bedecked in images of Mickey, Minnie, Winnie, Spidey, Snoopy, Goofy and Scooby, making it easy to forget that the phrase “Trick or Treat!” is not a salutation.  Even after suffering those who use the celebration to egg cars, soap windows, or place burning bags of excrement on the stoops of the unsuspecting, we are forgiving enough to forget that “Trick or Treat?” was originally a question, an implied threat made cute by the passage of time.

Campaign finance law started out somewhat the reverse.  It began as cute — “Aw, look, disclosure” — but quickly grew into a threat to become, as was its destiny, one more cudgel in the fight for power.  Sometimes it looks as innocent as a soaped window.  (Recall Bob Casey’s tweaking of Rick Santorum over advertising disclaimers).  Other times it as unwelcome and offensive as that burning bag.  (Recall the Democratically-controlled commission in Wisconsin apparently rigging the rules to benefit Wisconsin’s Democratic candidate).

And sometimes it stinks as much as a rotten egg.  The AP reports that a judge will hear, this Halloween day, a complaint from a former Republican politician seeking to disqualify four powerful Democratic State Senators seeking re-election.  

The suit, filed by Montgomery [Alabama] lawyer Mark Montiel, seeks to remove from the Nov. 7 ballot [the incumbent Democratic] Senate President Pro Tem … Senate Majority Leader … and Senate budget committee chairmen.

Montiel argues that they should be removed for not filing the proper campaign finance reports in the Democratic primary.

[Budget committee chairman] Bedford called Montiel “a Republican political flunkie.”  He said the suit is clearly GOP-inspired because there were Republican senators who did the same thing that Montiel is trying to use against the four Democratic senators, but he didn’t name the Republicans in the suit.

Republican Attorney General Troy King issued an advisory opinion last month saying state law requires campaign finance reports to be filed in such situations.  But King said the opinion would only be applied prospectively because a previous opinion … indicated that candidates didn’t have to file the reports in primary elections where they had no opposition.

Montiel said Friday he doesn’t believe the courts can ignore what happened.

Phillip Rawls, “Former AG candidate seeks to disqualify four Democratic senators,” Associated Press, Oct. 13, 2006.

One of the Democratic targets noted that “[t]he way this suit is filed, it seeks to remove us from the ballot, but we aren’t named as defendants, [s]o we can’t even defend ourselves in court.  This is an attempt to overturn the votes cast in the primary elections.”   Marty Roney, “Ballot suit: 4 didn’t qualify”, The Montgomery Advertiser, p. A1, Oct. 20, 2006.

Aw, campaign “reform” is so cute, isn’t it[?]!  Trick or Treat[?]!

Steve Hoersting

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