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The Check Was in the Mail

On Monday, Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte, who is the Democratic candidate for Erie County Comptroller, held a press conference accusing her Republican opponent of dragging his feet on filing campaign finance disclosure reports. Chris Jacobs, she said, had failed to meet the latest deadline for filing, September 23, as he was required by law to do because he ran in the Independence Party primary last month. She noted that he also had failed to file a report for the period ending July 15, despite the fact that he had begun handing out campaign literature—for which someone must have paid—before that date.

Whyte’s criticism was blunted somewhat by an inconvenient occurrence: Jacobs’s 10-day post-primary disclosure form appeared online the very day she called the press conference criticizing his failure to file it. For the record, as of September 23, he had about $32,500 in the bank. He’d spent about $42,000. He loaned $30,000 to his campaign and donated another $5,000; family members kicked in another $10,500. Whyte has not filed since July, because she did not have a primary. As of July 15, she’d raised about $27,000 and spent about $9,000.

Meglio tardi che mai, the Italians say: Better late than never. Still, Whyte’s point obtains: Jacobs was late in filing. Whyte also cited this paper’s coverage of Jacobs’s reluctance to file campaign finance disclosure forms related to his 2009 race for his at-large seat on Buffalo’s school board. We, along with other petitioners, took Jacobs to court in order to get him to disclose his donors and his expenditures, an effort that both succeeded and failed: We got most (but not all) of the information we sought, but ultimately our suit—which was intended to underline the weakness of New York State’s election laws, particularly as they pertain to school board elections, rather than to embarrass Jacobs in particular—was dismissed. The dismissal may have proved our point about the law’s weakness (even the judge seemed to agree on that) but was a loss nonetheless.

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