A local group critical of the Indianapolis Public Schools administration said Monday it violated campaign finance rules by not reporting its support for four school board candidates on the November ballot. The group said it is now following the requirements of the state and Marion County Election Board.
The announcement comes as attention turns to how much money political action committees are spending on the contentious race. A majority of seats on the IPS School board are up this election.
In the past few weeks the IPS Community Coalition paid for Facebook ads to promote and “boost” candidates it endorsed for the IPS School Board of Commissioners. But the group, which registered as a domestic nonprofit organization in December 2017, was not registered as a political action committee.
Organizations or people that accept contributions or spend more than $100 during a calendar year for the purpose of influencing an election must register as a political action committee, according to the 2020 Indiana Campaign Finance Manual.
“On Friday, Oct. 23, it came to our attention that we have been operating as an unregistered political action committee (PAC) because the aggregate of our expenditures exceeded the legal limit of $100 for the first time in the history of the organization,” reads a post on the group’s Facebook page. “As a result, we immediately filed the required paperwork and campaign finance report with the Marion County Election Board. And, just like that, we now have an official Indiana PAC called the IPS Community Coalition – PAC.”
According to the Oct. 24 filing, the IPS Community Coalition received an in-kind donation totalling $296.92 for Facebook ads during the reporting period. Jim Scheurich, the group’s president, donated the money.
The amount of campaign money in Indianapolis school board race is drawing attention after pre-election campaign finance reports showed more than $200,000 in total was donated to four candidates. The PACs for Indy Chamber, RISE Indy and Stand for Children Indiana gave donations and support to District 1 candidate Will Pritchard, District 2 incumbent Venita Moore, District 4 incumbent Diane Arnold and at-large challenger Kenneth Allen.
IPS Community Coalition endorsed four other candidates who have raised much less money: District 1 candidate Brandon Randall, District 2 challenger Daqavise Winston, at-large incumbent Elizabeth Gore, and District 4 challenger Christina Smith. Smith is a co-founder of the coalition.
According to state code, a person who fails to file a report required by the Campaign Finance Act with the appropriate office commits a Class B misdemeanor and is subject to a $1,000 fine, 180 days imprisonment, or both.
A spokesperson for the Marion County Election Board did not respond to questions about the campaign violation.