La PORTE – Officials of the ruling political party in Long Beach could face misdemeanor charges for failing to follow Indiana campaign law.
During a meeting Wednesday, the La Porte County Election Board fielded a complaint regarding campaign advertisements promoting Long Beach Party candidates for town council. According to the board, the materials lacked proper disclaimers noting which entity financed the publications, a violation of Indiana election law.
Members of Citizens for a Unified Long Beach – a collation supporting several opposition candidates in next month's election – shared the grievance in a letter to the board earlier this month. The organization attached several campaign materials to the complaint, including door hangers and copies of three advertisements that ran in a local publication.
La Porte County Clerk and Election Board member Kathy Chroback reviewed the materials and confirmed they lacked the necessary financial disclosure text.
According to Indiana Code 3-9-3-2.5, political materials or literature such as newspaper advertisements, yard signs or brochures must include a disclosure statement. The text must identify who paid for said material and whether the candidate(s) it supports authorizes it.
Failure to obey the disclosure requirement is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to $5,000, up to one of year imprisonment, or both.
The Election Board recommended that Citizens for a Unified Long Beach take its complaint to the prosecutor's office, which could charge the LBP for disclaimer violations. The board itself cannot provide any remedy, as it lacks the power to levy fines or other punishments, according to chair Andrew Voeltz.
Although the board cannot recall the offending material, Voeltz noted party officials are now aware of the campaign disclosure laws.
"[The law's requirements] are all laid out there, so it should not be hard to bring these materials into compliance or ... publish new materials," he said.
LBP member and current Long Beach Town Council President Bob LeMay confirmed the party inadvertently failed to add disclaimer statements to several campaign signs, materials and newspaper ads. The disclaimer should have stated the materials were "Approved and paid for by the Long Beach Party."
LeMay added the party is rectifying the problem.
"I know transparency is important to voters," LeMay said. "Not putting the 'Paid for by the Long Beach Party' message on some campaign materials was not intentional on our part. We apologize for any concerns this may have caused, and we're focused on a clean campaign by all those running for public office."
The LBP – whose members currently hold all five seats on the council – is fielding five candidates for the board in the Nov. 5 election.
Among the candidates are incumbents LeMay and Nick Meyer, along with Marquette High School theology teacher Kathleen Beeler, Long Beach Advisory Planning Commission member Anita Remijas, and Long Beach Fire Chief John Wall.
Citizens for a Unified Long Beach is supporting a bipartisan slate of candidates, including:
• Democrat Mary Lou McFadden, who served on the council from 2003-12
• Republican Mike Johnstone, who has 27 years of community involvement in Chicago and Long Beach
• Republican Tom McDonald, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and steel industry executive
• Independent Jim Dehner, a former member of the Long Beach Board of Zoning Appeals
Also running for the council is independent John Kocher.