Porter County council member’s campaign finance records missing items, totals
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 14, 2013 1:38PM
Updated: April 18, 2013 6:25AM
Republican Jim Biggs has run for — and been elected to — office in Porter County several times.
He is a councilman and has served as a commissioner, and made unsuccessful attempts at sheriff and returning to the commissioners. He should know how to fill out his campaign finance reports. Yet those he filed for last year’s commissioners race omitted almost as much as they included, from a fundraiser dinner he held to a campaign website.
The reports also are poorly filled out, with contributions from individuals mixed in with those from businesses, instead of being listed on separate forms. Even the total tallies for what he raised for his campaign have not been done correctly, and he does not appear to have filed a statement of organization form for his most recent race for commissioner.
Biggs, R-1st District, said any omissions or errors were unintentional, and he and his campaign treasurer, Gloria Reed, who served as treasurer for several of his campaigns, filled out his final campaign finance report in a hurry because he had been out of town and had to get it in when he returned. It was filed Jan. 22, six days after the deadline, though he was not the only candidate to file his form late.
“If there’s anything that’s missing on there that should be on there, if it’s noted to us, then I’ll be more than happy to put it on there,” he said.
No postage expenses are listed on the reports, though Biggs said he paid for printing of campaign materials out of pocket — that is listed for $450 on the reports — and had virtually no postage expenses.
After he filed to run for the commissioners’ North District seat against Republican incumbent John Evans, Biggs said he sent out letters to fewer than 100 close friends and family members seeking contributions. Because he had no money in his campaign fund at the time, Biggs said he most likely just used stamps he had at home or went to the post office and purchased them, just one of many expenses he paid for himself and did not report.
“I could have written off gasoline and never did anything like that,” he said.
Though he did put together a campaign letter to go out with seed packets — the seed packets are reflected as an expense — he and two fellow candidates hit the streets leaving them at residents’ homes because he didn’t have the funds to mail them all out.
He said the website was donated and, because he hadn’t had a website for a campaign before, he didn’t realize he had to list it as an in-kind donation.
“That didn’t even cross my mind, to be honest with you, because we didn’t spend any money on it,” Biggs said, adding when he and Reed went through receipts for campaign expenditures, there wasn’t one for the website, so they didn’t list it. “I think I probably should have noted the in-kind donation for the website but it never occurred to me to do that.”
What’s also missing from the report is a fundraising dinner Biggs held at a Portage hotel in March last year, or apparently an accounting of how much the event raised. Biggs said he did not have to report contributions under $100 and tickets to the dinner were $25, but thought he had listed the total amount he raised that night as a lump sum on the reports.
He had no clear explanation for why those expenses and donations were not on the report. Though Biggs recalled paying for food for the fundraiser, he wasn’t sure where it was noted in the reports.
“There could be a couple things on there that should have been put on there that’s not,” he said, adding if he didn’t give Reed the receipt, then it may not be reflected in the report, “or we could have just done it wrong.”
Biggs said he and Reed filled out the forms themselves and were “extremely diligent” about listing contributions collected by his campaign. While other candidates may have had a third party review their reports before they were filed with the Voters Registration Office, he and Reed did not, nor did they double-check them before they were turned in.
“I think if you go through those reports, you will find variations in how they’re filled out” among the candidates, Biggs said.
All told, Biggs raised almost $7,200 in his bid for commissioner last year, according to his campaign reports. Biggs’ campaign had no money left after last year’s primary, when he lost to Evans, and still owed him $450 for printing expenses.
If someone thinks he’s done something wrong, Biggs said they should come forward.
“It is my responsibility as a candidate to make sure it is done properly, and I stand behind that and respect that,” he said. “That doesn’t mean mistakes weren’t made.”