Joe Gruters' opponent faces big fee for late finance report - Florida Politics

Joe Gruters’ opponent faces big fee for late finance report

Faith Olivia Babis is about to get hit with a bill she could have easily avoided.

The Sarasota Democrat, who is running in the special election for Senate District 23, was a week late in filing her most recent campaign finance report, and state law imposes hefty fees on candidates for being tardy.

Florida statute imposes a $50 penalty for the first three days after the deadline passes, then it ratchets up to $500. The penalty is capped at 25 percent of contributions or expenditures, whichever is greater.

In Babis’ case, she raised $3,482 and spent $5,855 during the first three weeks of June, so she’ll need to write a check for nearly $1,500 to cover those fees.

Her campaign account, while meager for a Senate race, could more than cover it. That’s not the law, however. She has to pay that fine out of her own pocket — and she’s not exactly flush with cash.

According to the financial disclosure paperwork she filed last month, Babis is worth negative $53,000 and her income is listed as $13,148 per year. If she has any savings she could tap into, she didn’t report them. That only means the fee, due in 20 days, will sting that much harder.

There is an appeal process, but in general candidates must be able to prove that “unusual circumstances” contributed to the untimely report.

The violation is certainly an unfortunate lesson for Babis, but it’s an equally bad look for the Florida Democratic Party, which has apparently not stepped in to shepherd their nominee in how to run a campaign by the books. For the party that says “no GOP seat is safe” this year, this certainly doesn’t amp up enthusiasm.

Of course, Babis doesn’t stand much of a chance come Nov. 6. She’s running against Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters in a district Donald Trump won by 15 percent two years ago.

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.
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