Fine over campaign finance violations raises questions about Williams
On Wednesday, the city Board of Ethics released a settlement against State Sen. Anthony Williams to return excess donations limits, as well as the $62,927 of pre-candidacy money that was illegally transferred into his mayoral campaign.
An accountant hired by the board identified $17,250 in excess donations to the Williams for Mayor campaign. The settlement demands that the money not be returned to it donors, but disgorged to the city within the next three days.
The report also cites Williams for transferring nearly $63,000 from his senate campaign fund into his current mayoral campaign account. The Board of Ethics has requested these funds be transferred back into their previous account within the next three days, and remain untouched by the mayoral campaign.
Williams must also reimburse the city for the $10,000 they spent on the accountant who vetted the campaign finance reports.
The review’s findings follow numerous journalistic reports about independent third-party organizations contributing “dark money” to both Williams’ mayoral and senatorial campaign accounts.
Williams has never denied his campaign’s third-party donations, simultaneously insisting that he is “owned by no one.”
But last week at a mayoral forum, he told an auditorium full of politically engaged students at Central High School that he would disclose everyone who contributed to his campaign to ensure they were in compliance with the law.
Did Williams count the nearly $63,000 transferred illegally to his campaign as legal tender?
Williams' ethics policy proposal paper, which he released last week, decried this sort of maneuver. He pitched a reform measure that would "limit incumbents' ability to stockpile resources for in the first three years of their reelection cycle, and limit their ability to expend money based on whether funds were received for the primary or general election, similar to federal law."
A student at the Central High forum asked the senator if he would take a pledge to turn down dark money in this current campaign; Williams did not give a yes or no answer, but said he would pledge that his television ads would be paid for out of his own pocket. (The video is available online; the question begins at 28:00 of part 2.)
“I am the only one who is running with non-dark money ads on television,” Williams said. “[It is] my money out of my campaign that I raised.”
Williams was alluding to his opponent former Councilman Jim Kenney, the only other mayoral candidate with ads on television. A Kenney television spot is being funded by a labor-backed PAC.
In late February, Williams released his first ad, which his campaign produced and bought air space for with their own funds. At the same time, another pro-Williams ad American Cities PAC went public. He now has a second PAC-funded ad as well.
Technically, he is “the only candidate who is running non-dark money ads” on television.
At the same time, he is also a candidate with dark money ads on television.
Earlier in the debate, in reference to an AL DÍA report on Kenney’s pay-to-play policy, Williams asked if Kenney would leave his second job at the government-contracted architecture firm Vitetta and “demand that they pay their taxes.”