NO SPENDING FOR DEMS: Local political party in "inactive" financial status

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MAGOFFIN COUNTY – While the county offices are all on the ballot this year, the local Democratic party will not be spending anything to support any candidates.

Rumors circulated earlier this year that the party had dissolved, but Magoffin County Democratic Chairman Randall Hardin told the Independent that was untrue and he wasn’t aware of any changes to the party.

Just to double-check, the Independent touched base with the Kentucky Democratic Party, which reiterated that to their knowledge, nothing had changed within the party. Thinking that was where the story would die, we sent out one last message to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, which was able to pinpoint a small, but potentially crucial change.

On February 2, almost two months before the Independent talked to him, Randall Hardin submitted a letter to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, officially stating the Magoffin County Democratic Party no longer has any funds or bank account and that they had referred the ITC (labeled income tax check-off funds) checks back to the state’s Democratic Party. With the letter, the party is considered to be in “inactive” status.

By being “inactive” as a party, the Magoffin County Democratic Party will not be able to “raise or spend any money in the direct support or defeat of a candidate or candidates, ballot issue, constitutional amendment, or any type of expenses,” according to the letter sent from the registry to Randall Hardin. 

As far as the party’s “inactive” status, that will only affect their ability to receive or spend money as a party. The Magoffin County Democratic Party Executive Committee will still be tasked with submitting names to the State Board of Elections, which will then in turn appoint the party’s representation on the county board of elections. The Kentucky Democratic Party confirmed that the local party will be handling their normal obligations for the party, but the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance stipulated they cannot deal with money while inactive.

Emily Dennis, general counsel for Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, told the Independent, “In reviewing the file records, it appears there was very little fundraising activity (contributions/expenditures) in 2017.  It also looks like Dr. Charles Hardin spent a significant amount of time to clear up the committee’s financial records, including the submission of bank account statements and a ledger for the committee to the Registry.”

Dr. Hardin, Randall Hardin’s brother and current Magoffin County judge executive, held the position of party chairman prior to Randall being appointed by the county Democratic executive committee to take his place. Dr. Hardin has since changed his party affiliation to “independent” and submitted his statement of candidacy for the general election to retain his current office. 

At press time, the date, location and who was present at the meeting that presumably included Charles Hardin stepping down from the position as Democratic chair and Randall being appointed, is all unknown. The state’s Democratic Party’s bylaws dictate that the chair is appointed by the county Democratic executive committee, and that if there are more than two nominations at least 40 percent the elected committee members must be present for a vote. The bylaws also stipulate that the committee is comprised of the chair, vice chair, and the precinct officers, all of which are elected at the party convention, held every four years. Quarterly meetings are also required, to be held in February, May, August and November.  

According to the Magoffin County Democratic Party’s 2017 First Semi-Annual Financial Statement, submitted by Charles Hardin in August last year covering from December 10, 2016, through June 30, 2017, Hardin used the remaining funds in the party’s bank account to close the account. The $231.56 that remained in the account from the previous balance, plus $1.52 from Hardin, and the $105 from ITC were labeled as going to the “Salyersville Bank” for fees, leaving the ending balance at zero. 

The next financial statement, sent to the registry by Randall Hardin in February covering July 1 through December 31, 2017, confirms that the accounts had been closed and that no more funds had been raised or spent for the Democratic party.

Comparatively, during the same period, the Magoffin County Republican Party raised $355 during the first half of last year, with a total of $577.39 in the bank. With no election last year, it’s not surprising very little money was spent by either political party. 

It’s a bit hard to compare the two parties’ spending during the last county election, in 2014. According to the Magoffin County Democratic Party’s statement dated from December 2012 through June 12, 2014, the party raised $250, noted from Charles Hardin, and spent $57.75. The next report that ran from June 2014 through March 2015, which would cover the general election that year, the party raised no money and spent $19.25. Neither report indicates the reasons for the expenditures. 

While those statements appear to be the only official records of the party’s receipts and disbursements during that time period, the Independent did receive $378 for an advertisement that ran on October 9, 2014. The ad, which included “Paid for by Magoffin County Democratic Party,” invited the public to a “fun day in the park” at Ramey Memorial Park and included “food and good company for all” and inflatables for kids. The ad also included the names of 12 candidates that were sponsoring the event. Neither the price of the ad, the cost of the event nor the donations from the sponsors were included in the election finance statement for that period.

Similarly, the Magoffin County Republican Party reported raising $2,910 and spending $2,684.32, with an itemized list included to show each expenditure from May 22 through November 5, 2014. 

As it stands now, it’s actually illegal for the Magoffin County Democratic Party to spend or receive any money as long as it remains in its current status, meaning no fish fries, no get-out-the-vote campaigns and no financial support for any of the Democratic candidates on the ticket. So, while there are currently 60 Democratic candidates on the ballot for the upcoming primary election, it’s looking like none of them are going to get any financial assistance from their party this year. However, in retrospect, on paper they haven’t exactly been supported financially in recent years, anyway.