Senator’s case referred to AG; Late campaign finance reports still not filed

Published 12:13 am Thursday, October 23, 2014

NATCHEZ —The matter of Sen. Melanie Sojourner’s  late campaign finance report for 2013 and the fines associated with it has been referred to the state attorney general’s office.

Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office Communications Director Pamela Weaver said Sojourner’s case was referred because she has failed to pay the civil penalty associated with the delinquent filing.

Sojourner (R-Natchez) was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

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Sojourner is the only state legislator who has not filed the statutorily required campaign finance report for 2013, which was due Jan. 31.

Sojourner previously said she was unable to file the report because a September 2013 tornado damaged her Kingston-area home and many of the necessary records for the filing.

Sojourner has already had a $500 fine — the maximum financial penalty — levied against her, and the state Department of Finance and Administration has issued a warning that the senator’s legislative pay will be withheld until she files the documents.

But state law also dictates that if a candidate is assessed the civil penalty and does not pay it within 120 days of the assessment, the matter will be forwarded to the attorney general’s office so it can file — where necessary — a suit to compel the payment of the civil penalty.

Weaver said even though Sojourner has filed for a waiver from the penalties of the late filing, the waiver can’t be granted until the report has been filed.

“To my knowledge, we have never had a legislator not be able to file a report,” Weaver said.

While the matter of campaign finance reports is substantially governed by civil law in Mississippi, the law states any candidate who “willfully and deliberately and substantially violates” the law could be convicted of a misdemeanor and face a fine of $3,000 and six months jail time.

The criminal code also says candidates who fail to file reports can’t be certified for election.

The code also provides, however, that once the required information is filed, the candidate can be certified for election and — if already in office — can again receive the pay associated with their office.

Sojourner represents District 37, which includes parts of Adams, Amite, Franklin and Pike Counties.

She also served as the campaign manager for state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who ran an unsuccessful bid against sitting U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran for the Republican party’s nomination to the fall ballot.