The Registry of Election Finance board has taken the first step toward a hearing on allegations against the Stand for Children political action committee and several Nashville school board candidates it supported violated campaign finance laws, reports The Tennessean.
A complaint against the PAC was filed by Tennessee Citizens Action, which bills itself as promoting consumer rights and civic action.The complaint contends Stand for Children illegally coordinated its activities with several pro-charter school candidates during the election.
“My gut feeling is there is enough smoke to open up and look at it,” said Tom Lawless, chairman of the registry board. He added: “If they violated (the law), we need to be consistent. We don’t have to be punitive, we can be constructive.”
The complaint was filed Aug. 4, a day before Nashville’s school board elections, and cites a story by The Tennessean that details emails sent by the head of a prominent Nashville nonprofit that appear to show she coordinated with Stand for Children to find campaign workers for the four school board candidates.
It also cites a July 29 WSMV report that says Stand for Children Director Daniel O’Donnell met with candidate Thom Druffel during a 10-day mandatory blackout period before the election. Stand’s attorney said O’Donnell took a day off from work that day and was not in violation of the law.
Stephen Zralek, an attorney with Nashville law firm Bone McAllester Norton PLLC who represents Stand for Children, said the organization takes election ethics issues seriously and consistently follows the law.
“The Registry’s order is standard procedure whenever a complaint is filed. We look forward to answering the Registry’s questions and providing an accurate account of the facts,” he said in a Wednesday email.
Gerard Stranch, the attorney who filed the complaint, told the registry he thought it was clear that there was evidence Stand for Children exceeded campaign contribution limits by coordinating with candidates, and violated laws banning donations by a PAC within a “blackout period” in the days immediately leading up to the election.