Wake County District Attorney Race: Swaim Admits Error

Unfree SpeechIt’s no secret that I oppose most campaign finance reform, of the kind that federally has been pushed for years by John McCain. My views on campaign finance line up more or less with Brad Smith, the Republican Federal Elections Commissioner who was appointed by George W. Bush and whose book Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform is a broadside on campaign finance laws. These laws were largely passed by Congress in response to the Watergate scandal and make running for office an exercise in campaigning, raising money, and complying with myriad election regulations.

North Carolina’s laws – the ones that govern state and local races – differ from federal laws, but my same concerns apply there as well.

Indeed, I particularly loathe the way in which politics shifts to the legal arena, with campaigns filing complaints with election and campaign finance boards at the state or federal level, depending on the race, in order to gain a politic or electoral advantage.

A complex and confusing campaign finance regulatory regime invites corruption of our politics by making it difficult to comply with the laws.

Therefore, I’m sympathetic to the letter Allen Swaim, candidate for District Attorney, wrote to State Board of Elections explaining what appears to be a fairly minor violation of campaign finance regulations:

When I first had the idea of running for the office of district attorney I had to make an LLC, obtain a tax id number, and open a bank account. I was in the middle of several litigious matters, as I am a litigation lawyer, and relied upon common sense, my best judgment, and the advice of friends in starting this run. I opened up the bank account with First Citizens Bank, across the street from my office where I have banked personally for well over twenty years. I did not know at the time that there was a prohibition to making a deposit of a one hundred dollar bill into a bank account for an election. The bank manager took the only bill I had in my wallet to initialize the account, it was a hundred dollar bill I tuck away for emergencies.

Chris Fulmer volunteered to be my treasurer for the campaign while I was opening the account. He is a very smart and meticulous classmate of mine from Duke Law School. He had to take a training class after we opened the account where he learned what had transpired was the incorrect way of opening the bank account. The Board contacted Mr. Fulmer with an inquiry as to the matter, and we substituted a personal check from me to the Campaign Bank Account for the hundred dollar bill. There was never any intent to do anything wrong and we resolved the matter as soon as we knew there was a problem.

Last Friday the Board got a message to me about writing a letter explaining this matter. assured the board representative that I would take it up first thing this week as I was dealing with a small child who was very sick. Please accept this letter as an explanation as to the events that occurred and my assurance that noting [SIC] that occurred was meant to circumvent any rules, regulations, or laws. This is our first campaign and when we make mistakes, we will own up to them right away and correct them as quickly as possible. The first days were very harried and chaotic and we thank the Board and the Public for its understanding in this matter.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.