The Louisiana Board of Ethics found Friday that Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne’s campaign committee collected money in excess of the legal contribution limit and levied a $2,500 fine.
The board had considered the case behind closed doors and announced the decision at its monthly meeting.
William Steve Sandahl, treasurer for the John L. Jay Dardenne Jr. Committee, agreed that the contributions violated the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act and agreed to pay the civil penalties, according to a consent form he signed in June. Sandahl had reported the infraction when he discovered it, according to the Ethics Board.
“It was basically an unfortunate accounting error,” Dardenne said Friday. “But it was a violation. I concurred with the opinion, too.”
Dardenne did not participate personally in the management of the financing of his campaign last year for lieutenant governor, according to the Board of Ethics’ findings of facts.
Candidates for a major statewide post can only accept contributions of up to $5,000 per person per election under state law. Dardenne’s committee reimbursed $7,027 to seven contributors whose donations exceeded the $5,000 per person per election limit, according to the Ethics Board.
Sandahl reported to the Ethics Board that new personnel in his office had inadvertently failed to enable the part of computer software that automatically aggregates campaign contributions, according to the Ethics Board. Once the mistake was discovered, Dardenne’s committee manually reviewed each contribution during June 2010 and identified the excess contributions, the opinion states.
For instance, according to the Ethics Board, Dardenne’s campaign committee found that Associated Branch Pilots, a group that represents the bar pilots who guide ocean-going vessels on the Mississippi River, contributed $2,500 on Nov. 19, 2007 for the lieutenant governor’s race. Then on Aug. 28, 2008, the group gave another $2,500. And on March 1, 2010, the group sent a $5,000 contribution. Dardenne’s committee reimbursed the group on June 24, 2010, the Ethics opinion states.
The campaign also reimbursed lobbyist Haynie & Associates; C.H. Fenstermaker, a Lafayette engineering firm; and Mockler Beverage Co., a Baton Rouge beverage distributor; among others, according to the Ethics Board.
Dardenne, a Republican, on Oct. 2 won a place on the Nov. 3 runoff ballot for lieutenant governor. He complained to the Ethics Board about the fundraising activities of his runoff opponent, Democrat Caroline Fayard.
Dardenne was elected with 57 percent of the vote. Because the election filled the final year of the term of former Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who resigned when he was elected mayor of New Orleans, Dardenne will have to campaign for a full four-year term in the Oct. 22 election.