Registry votes to fine Durham $465K for campaign finance violations

The Registry of Election Finance board voted today to levy $465,000 in civil penalties against former state Rep. Jeremy Durham for multiple violations of state campaign finance laws. That’s the biggest such fine ever imposed by the watchdog agency in its 26-year history.

From the Tennessean’s report:

Officials imposed the fine after a marathon discussion that lasted nearly five hours, in which Durham’s attorney Peter Strianse occasionally objected to the findings of a six-month audit performed by the registry.

“We are here today to ask the board not to assess any civil penalties,” Strianse said while representing Durham, who was not present at the meeting.

After the hearing, Strianse said he plans to appeal the registry’s action in front of an administrative law judge…

…Among the findings in the registry’s audit were allegations Durham used campaign funds to improperly buy sunglasses, suits and spa products to inappropriately loaning thousands of dollars to his wife, a prominent GOP fundraiser and a professional gambler.

…When the registry got to the 208 purchases Durham made for everything from meals to clothing, (Registry board member Henry)  Fincher said while some might have been legitimate, as Durham contends, by not reporting the expenses the motive was evident.

“It is clear proof of an intentional attempt to hide expenses,” Fincher said. “It’s as bad as I have seen in my time of service on this registry.”

The board issued a $1,000 fine for each of these transactions, resulting in a $208,000, the largest single fine for any one finding in the audit. 

After more than two and a half hours of going through the findings of the audit, the registry began imposing fines for individual violations of state law. 

Board members occasionally haggled over the individual amounts for each fine, trying to persuade how egregious Durham’s actions were while also expressing a desire to use the penalties to prevent future wrongdoing. 

In total, the registry fined Durham $465,500 for more than 300 violations.



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