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Porter County commissioner dead almost 10 years still had campaign finance fund

Updated: April 25, 2013 6:44AM



VALPARAISO — Maybe the dead can’t vote in Porter County, but they apparently can maintain a campaign fund.

Porter County Commissioner Larry Sheets, D-Center, died in September 2003, of complications from leukemia. He had been diagnosed the previous year while he was running for his fifth term in office.

Yet paperwork to formally close his campaign fund wasn’t filed with the county’s voter registration office until March 11. Until the fall of last year, the fund had $11,295.

When a candidate or elected official dies, their campaign is usually wrapped up with their estate, said Brad King, director of the Indiana Election Division in the Secretary of State’s Office.

“That’s typically a one- or two-year process, as opposed to 10,” he said. “That’s a rare event.”

Campaign treasurer William Wallace said Sheets’ wife, Paula, wanted the fund to remain open, and referred questions about the matter to her. She did not return a call seeking comment.

Much of Sheets’ campaign fund, according to campaign finance reports, was disbursed in October and November to Visclosky for Congress, which received $1,999; the Committee to Elect Mike Bucko, which got $2,000; the VNA Foundation, $2,000; Opportunity Enterprises, $1,600; and the Memorial Opera House, $1,700.

A final disbursement to the campaign fund for U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, of $1,996 was released from the fund March 9, totaling it out.

The campaign finance report came out “to the penny,” said Kathy Kozuszek, Democratic director in the voter registration office.

She advises candidates to close out their campaign funds after the election is over; if they keep it open for future campaigns, they have to fill out a finance report every year.

If candidates have money left when they close an account, “to me, it only makes sense to give the money back to the party,” she said.

State law allows candidates to make donations to not-for-profits from their campaign funds, King said, adding folks who donate to a candidate, political party, or political action committee are making a decision that they trust that person or organization.

The matter has come up before, King said, adding former State Sen. Rose Ann Antich proposed a measure to close campaign funds after the death of a Lake County candidate, but the measure didn’t pass.



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