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Ritz blames error for possible improper campaign donations

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Democratic state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz on Friday blamed a clerical error for her campaign for governor reporting about $8,000 in contributions as being collected during this year’s legislative session, a potential violation of Indiana’s campaign finance laws.

A disclosure report filed this week by Ritz’s gubernatorial campaign shows the campaign received 28 contributions between Jan. 6 and Feb. 23. State office candidates are prohibited from accepting campaign money during the Legislature’s budget-writing sessions, which were held this year from Jan. 6 until April 29.

Ritz said her campaign had made a mistake of listing the contributions on the deposit date rather than when they were given. Ritz said she would be filing an amended report soon.

“There has been an error in the form, is what I have found out,” Ritz said. “We did absolutely no fundraising during the blackout period, and I think we have all the data and all the evidence to support that.”

The possible improper donations, first reported by WRTV of Indianapolis, would have been given to Ritz’s schools superintendent campaign committee, which was converted to gubernatorial campaign after she announced her 2016 bid for the state’s top office in early June.

The penalty for violating the campaign finance law is a civil fine of up to twice the amount of any contributions received, plus any costs incurred by the state’s election division. In this case, that would be up to $16,300, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Bradley King, Republican co-director of the Indiana Election Division, said the Ritz campaign still would be in violation even if the money was received before the legislative session.

“The critical moment is when the check or cash is deposited into a bank account,” King said.

Ritz’s campaign reported raising about $30,000 in the first six months of this year – far behind the nearly $1.8 million raised by former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination in hopes of a rematch of his 2012 loss to Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

The Pence campaign reported raising $1.6 million, giving his re-election campaign about $4.2 million in the bank.

Reports filed by Pence, Gregg and state Sen. Karen Tallian of Portage, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, don’t list any money as being collected during the legislative session.