Democrats want an attorney general's ruling on whether GOP state Sen. Nathan Tanner should be removed from November's ballot because of a "clearly phony" campaign finance report filing, Salt Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Hatch says.
Lt. Gov. Olene Walker, whose office is in charge of campaign filings, said she will pass along Hatch's request to Attorney General Jan Graham.Hatch, who said he's acting as a member of the state party's executive committee, said he questions Walker's ruling that Tanner's campaign finance filing is adequate.
"If this (Walker's decision) stands, it means that anyone can spit on a piece of paper, call it a campaign filing and get an automatic two-week extension" in publicly disclosing campaign funds raised and spent, Hatch said Thursday morning.
Tanner, R-South Ogden, is out of the country, scheduled to return some time this week, GOP State Executive Director Spencer Stokes said.
Republican officials, in a hectic search, couldn't get in touch with Tanner Monday and Tuesday, Stokes said. Tanner's son, acting through power of attorney, signed and turned in a campaign finance report for his father, Stokes said. The report lists only zeroes for amount of money raised, spent and cash on hand.
"That is clearly wrong. It is not even a good-faith effort," Hatch said.
The person filing the report could have listed, at the very least, the fact that Tanner had $250 in cash on hand at the end of his last report, that he paid a $22 candidate filing fee and that he had raised at least some money this year, Hatch said.
Hatch also charged that if it had been a Democratic candidate, Walker, an elected Republican, wouldn't have been so lenient. Would a Democrat have received this treatment? "He'd be off the ballot," Hatch said.
"That is not true," Walker said. In an effort to have all legislative candidates file their reports by the deadline - Tuesday at 5 p.m. - Walker said she and her staff "called as many Democrats as Republicans."
Walker had a call list herself. And she says she personally called the home of Mary Hammond, a Democrat running in West Valley's House District 43.
"I got a woman on the phone, I think it was Mary's daughter. She asked couldn't Mary bring in the report Wednesday. I said no, it had to be here (in Walker's office) by 5 p.m. I told her, `Get your mom to call me. This is important.' Mary called. She asked if she couldn't bring it in Wednesday. I said no, she'd be off the ballot. She brought it in," Walker said.
Stokes said it is correct that Tanner's report is not complete. "The law doesn't allow any leeway, a report must be filed" or the candidate's name must be dropped from the ballot. So, a report was filed by someone who had power of attorney, Stokes said.
Walker said it is not her office's job to scrutinize each report, looking for errors - even though she admits that seeing zeros on an incumbent senator's report probably means it must be amended.
She pointed out there is a specific remedy in the statute for "errors" in reports. She will notify Tanner within five days that a formal complaint (Hatch's) has been made concerning Tanner's report. Tanner then has 14 days to correct any errors or Walker must remove his name from the Nov. 3 ballot in Senate District 18.
While that process is in place, Hatch said, it clearly shouldn't apply to Tanner because his report, in Hatch's opinion, is a sham.
"If the attorney general says (Tanner's) report meets the letter of the law, then I could use power of attorney to just file blank pages - maybe with some spit on them - for all of our (Democratic legislative) candidates each year and then they would get an automatic 14-day extension on filing their reports. This is a drop-dead date (for filing).
"If the senator had been out of the country on candidate-filing day, would Olene say he could file for candidacy when he returned? Of course not. Candidate filing is a drop-dead date also. This (leniency) was given because it was a sitting Republican senator who didn't file his report accurately and faces removal from the ballot," Hatch said.
If Tanner's name were not on the ballot, he almost certainly would lose to Democratic Senate candidate Edgar Allen. Senate District 18 is considered a swing district. It was held by a Democrat in the 1990s before Tanner was elected in 1994.