Council President Aponte files late campaign reports; owes nearly $48K

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The president of the Providence City Council was late to report nearly $18,000 in campaign contributions and about $25,000 in expenditures since 2010, according to a WPRI.com review of newly filed campaign finance reports.

Council President Luis Aponte has filed 25 past-due reports with the R.I. Board of Elections since Nov. 17 after consistently failing to file disclosures and racking up $47,834 in late fees over the last five years, according to Richard Thornton, the board’s campaign finance director. Aponte filed eight new reports last week.

“This is clearly not one of my strong suits,” Aponte told WPRI.com. He said he plans to hire an accountant to handle his campaign reports moving forward.

State law requires any individual, political party or political action committee to file quarterly campaign finance reports each year; in election years, candidates are required to file two additional disclosures if they’re competing in a primary, two more in the month leading up to the general election and one 28 days after the election.

The Board of Elections fines those who fail to file campaign finance reports $25 per late report and $2 per day for failing to respond to the board’s “notice of non-compliance.” A WPRI.com review of the state campaign fine aging list shows the state was owed $1.79 million as of last June. The board has the ability to seek a Superior Court judgment against those who fail to file and has also referred cases to the attorney general’s office, according to Thornton

Aponte, a Democrat who was first elected in 1998, has easily won re-election to the City Council twice since he last filed a campaign finance report on time – once in 2010 and again in 2014. But while he previously stated that part of the reason he didn’t file the required disclosures was because he wasn’t raising funds, his new filings show at least minor activity in each of the last five years.

  • Between April 1, 2010 and the end of that year, Aponte raised $7,365 and spent $14,515.
  • In 2011, he raised $1,025 and spent $1,526.
  • In 2012, he raised no money, but spent $1,500.
  • In 2013, he raised $1,850 and spent $960.
  • In 2014, he raised $7,700 and spent $6,969.

“We didn’t have any fundraisers, we didn’t ask anyone for money,” Aponte said. “People said ‘I’d like to support you, I like what you’re doing, here’s a check.’”

While Aponte identified nearly all of his campaign contributors since 2010 – including $200 from the political action committee run by Gov. Gina Raimondo – more than half of the $25,460 he spent during the same period came from aggregate expenditures. Filers aren’t required to disclose the names or addresses of payees who received under $100 in any calendar year.

Now that Aponte is up to date on all of his reports, he said he plans to seek a settlement agreement with the Board of Elections that would reduce the amount owed to the state. In January 2008, a Superior Court judge garnished Aponte’s wages at a rate of $250 per month to pay for a previous campaign finance fine against the councilman. The fine was paid in full in 2014, according to Thornton.

Aponte isn’t the only member of the City Council who has failed to file campaign reports in recent years. Majority Leader Kevin Jackson has paid off half of the $10,000 settlement agreement he reached with the board last year. He owes another $5,000 payment by Dec. 31 and has not filed eight consecutive reports dating back to Sept. 30, 2013.Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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