Former superintendent candidate pays $2,500 fine in campaign violation case

2010-12-28T19:15:00Z 2010-12-28T21:17:08Z Former superintendent candidate pays $2,500 fine in campaign violation caseBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette
December 28, 2010 7:15 pm  • 

HELENA — Former state Rep. Holly Raser, D-Missoula, has agreed to pay $2,500 to settle a complaint by the state political practices commissioner that says she violated campaign finance laws when she ran for state school superintendent in 2007-08.

Raser agreed to the settlement Dec. 23, two days after Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth filed a civil complaint against her in state District Court in Helena.

"I'm just glad that everything is resolved and that everything was taken care of," Raser said Tuesday.

Raser, a four-term Missoula lawmaker, was runner-up in the four-way Democratic primary race for state superintendent of public instruction in 2008. She lost to Denise Juneau, who went on to win the 2008 general election.

Raser said her campaign for superintendent of public instruction "was an honor and privilege to work with the people of Montana and a fantastic opportunity to learn about the issues and to work with people across the state."

"That's the part that remains with me from the campaign," she said. "I'm glad this is all over."

Unsworth acted on a complaint filed originally in October 2007 by Chris Wilcox, then the executive director of the Montana Republican Party.

Unsworth's investigation verified that Raser had broken the law after receiving sizeable loans from her sister and stepfather, who had already given her the maximum donations allowed to her campaign.

He also cited her for failing to deposit 82 campaign donations totaling nearly $21,000 into her campaign bank account within the required five days after receiving them.

Unsworth said he made a settlement offer to Raser in August and sent a follow-up letter in October, but received no reply. As a result, he filed a court complaint on Dec. 21 and e-mailed it to Raser. They agreed on the $2,500 settlement amount to resolve the case.

He said the settlement figure "stuck pretty close to past practices" by his office.

Unsworth's office received Raser's $2,500 check Monday and deposited it in the state treasury.

Unsworth ruled in May that Raser had broken state campaign finance laws 109 times. She could have faced a maximum fine of $54,000 or $500 per violation, or three times the value of illegal donations and expenditures, which would have been greater.

He said Raser broke the law in accepting an $11,000 loan from her stepfather, Robert Moore, and a $5,000 loan from her sister, Vicki Thornton, after each gave her the maximum $250 donation allowed for the office.

She amended her report to say the $16,000 in loans from her relatives should have been listed as a personal contribution from herself.

Raser also failed to report six contributions totaling $5,861.10 and $111.75 in dividends from her credit union campaign account.

The settlement signed by Unsworth and Raser said that in consideration of the payment, Unsworth agreed not to pursue any further administrative or court action against the former candidate and to dismiss the District Court complaint.

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