Reina spends 3 times limit in campaign

City attorney does not plan to prosecute

Money spent

• Francisco Reina: $1,512.78

• Jennifer Riley*: $482.92

• Joe Bird: $393.35

• Byron Willems*: $387.68

• Terry Carwile*: $363.34

• Gene Bilodeau*: $158.76

• Don Jones*: $99.60

All totals are according to city of Craig records. Carwile was the only candidate who did not submit his receipts. Craig City Clerk Shirley Seely said city code does not state candidates must turn in their receipts. She added she contacted Carwile, who said he would submit his receipts this week or early next week.

* Notes a candidate who was elected to office in the 2009 Craig municipal election.

— There has never been a candidate who spent more than the city charter allows in a municipal election, Craig City Attorney Kenny Wohl said.

Until this year.

Francisco Reina, who ran for one of four open Craig City Council seats last month, reported spending $1,512.78 on his campaign, more than three times the $500 limit.

His report to the city stated he spent the entire amount with the Craig Daily Press.

Reina said he was unaware of the spending limit and the associated guidelines when he began buying advertising space in the newspaper.

He said his first ad was an account of his "life story" and did not mention his candidacy, and so should not be counted against his spending limit.

"I was thinking, 'This is my personal life, it has nothing to do with the City Council,'" he said. "When I filed to run with (Craig City Clerk) Shirley Seely, she said I could not do that - that it was for the election."

Reina added he stopped buying newspaper ads "right away" when he was told about the situation.

Daily Press Publisher Bryce Jacobson said he has "always been aware" of spending limits for candidates in municipal elections but that he did not become aware Reina was spending more than allowed until after the newspaper published "two or three ads."

Jacobson said he and the Daily Press advertising staff discussed whether to ask Reina to sign a statement that his first advertisements were personal and not political, but they decided not to.

"We told him we had to call a spade a spade," Jacobson said. "They were political ads."

He said he does not think the newspaper did anything wrong when it sold more than $500 worth of political advertisements to Reina.

"It is not our role to police the city's regulations," Jacobson said. "On the advertising side of the newspaper, our job is to help people with their business. In this case, Francisco's business is to try and get on city council."

The Daily Press will not publish every advertisement submitted, he added. The first standard is to judge whether an ad could harm a reader, such as scams for money.

Jacobson said it is his opinion that Reina's advertisements did not harm the newspaper's readership.

Wohl plans to recommend to the City Council at its May 26 meeting not to prosecute Reina. The decision is ultimately Wohl's, but he said he would reconsider if the council felt strongly about the case.

Under city code, he could be charged with a Class A violation in municipal court. The charge carries a possible sentence of as much as a $1,000 fine and as many as 180 days in jail.

Wohl said the city likely would not seek the maximum penalty if it chooses to prosecute.

"Because of the history of the laws surrounding campaign finance, we don't know how a court would rule if someone challenged" the city charter, Wohl said.

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled campaign funds are at least partially protected by the first amendment right to free speech, thus cannot be limited in certain circumstances. Part of the ruling stated candidates can donate an unlimited amount to their own campaign.

However, Wohl said the current Supreme Court and other judges have indicated they would rule differently if presented the same case. For instance, Justice David Souter once said he considered money to be property and not free speech, Wohl said.

He hopes the nation's courts will provide some guidance on the issue before the next city election in 2011. At the very least, Wohl said city officials will have a few years to consider what to do with the city's spending limit.

"If we were having an election tomorrow, I'd be concerned," Wohl said. "Over the next year or so, if the courts give us direction, we'll know how to proceed. If it doesn't, we'll do our best.

"You don't want to indefinitely have a law on the books that you're not going to enforce."

Regardless of what city officials decide to do with Reina's case, Seely said money never seems to play a big role in local elections.

Despite the amount Reina spent, he received the fewest votes of any council candidate.

Councilor Gene Bilodeau, who served as an appointed replacement for 14 months before the last election, reported spending about $159. That is less than half what any other candidate spent, but he was elected to a full term.

"It's not that competitive, I think," Seely said. "The way most people get elected anyway is by word of mouth and getting out there and talking to people and meeting them."

Comments

Ray Cartwright 4 years, 11 months ago

Wohl said: "You don't want to indefinitely have a law on the books that you're not going to enforce." and where does the laws on illegal aliens fall in the scheme of things.

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lonelyone 4 years, 10 months ago

well looks like everyone is in favor of him getting fined or whatever the DA comes up with. And that includes me. I think he's learned a hard lesson by spending like he did and not getting elected, but I never meant to imply that should be enough. All of you have made good points. We'll see where this goes from here. Should be interesting.

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Ray Cartwright 4 years, 10 months ago

And the verdict is "Charge the man for the crimes he committed." Why did the attorney have to be directed by a 6-0 vote of the city council to do his job. Maybe we need another vote to find another city attorney.

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lonelyone 4 years, 10 months ago

it sounds to me like he isn't to crazy about the idea because of the supreme courts ruling from way back when. So if Mr Reina is to be charged, what about Terry. Sounds like he didn't do thing totally by the book either??? And rules are rules!

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jeff corriveau 4 years, 10 months ago

I believe the City Attorney has a RESPONSIBILITY to act in this case. If not, he should be fired for not doing his job. Where do you draw the distinction? Can a bar owner now claim "I didn't know it was illegal to sell to someone under age" and not be prosecuted? This may seem minor, but remember, "We are a nation of laws" I agree with dentedfender, if you don't like the law get rid of it. As long as it's there; enforce it.

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lonelyone 4 years, 11 months ago

Sure he exceded the amount allowed, but in the end it only hurt him for spending so much and not getting elected.

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grannyrett 4 years, 11 months ago

Why have a limit if you're not going to enforce it?

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Cole White 4 years, 10 months ago

Ok i've read some pretty dump posts in my life but most of the ones up above top the list. How many of you have been pulled over for speeding (that's breaking the law) and haven't gotten a ticket? The law says if you speed the fine is a ticket, but how come the police office has the power to let you off with a warning? Law enforcement officials have within their discretion which cases need to be prosecuted and which ones are just a waste of time. Almost every person who has ever climbed behind the wheel of a car is guilty of speeding, whether its one mile over the limit or twenty. Of course we all think it would be stupid to write ticket to a person for going one mile an hour over the speed limit, but none the less it is still breaking the law when you violate the posted speed limit. But who is going to write a ticket and what attorney is going to prosecute it? And why would they not prosecute it? Because the violation is trivial and has no impact on anything. The same can be said of this guy spending extra money. It didn't influence anything and he never got elected. Prosecuting him for spending an extra thousand is stupid. It's a waste of time and money and no public good is derived from it other than appeasing some stuborn egos. I feel if he gets prosecuted the bigger crime is the waste of tax payer dollars used to presecute him and the city attorney and the city council should be brought up on charges for missappropriation of city dollars.

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