Dwaine Caraway failed to file last two campaign finance reports in race against John Wiley Price – Dallas Morning News (blog)

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Dwaine Caraway, Dallas County Commissioner District 3 candidate, center seated , talks to the media at his campaign headquarters Tuesday February 23,2016 about his altercation with Commissioner John Wiley Price. Standing behind, from left, Ivana Hall , Zemanuel Araya, Christina Puga, all campaign staff members, were on hand to answer media questions. (Ron Baselice/The Dallas Morning News)

Dwaine Caraway, Dallas County Commissioner District 3 candidate, center seated , talks to the media at his campaign headquarters Tuesday February 23, 2016 about his altercation with Commissioner John Wiley Price. (Ron Baselice/The Dallas Morning News)

Dwaine Caraway has missed two consecutive deadlines for filing campaign finance reports in his race to unseat Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, prompting Price to accuse Caraway of trying to hide his bankrollers.

In response to questions, Caraway, a former Dallas City Council member, said that he, his campaign treasurer, and his treasurer’s assistant have all been sick recently. And he’s been busy dealing with fallout from Monday’s explosive fight with Price at a gospel radio station in which Caraway accused Price of ruining his first marriage.

“It’s been so much stuff going on,” Caraway said. He pledged to file the reports on Thursday. The public reports on campaign donations and expenditures were due on Feb. 1 and Monday for the March 1 primary.

Caraway could face a fine or a misdemeanor charge for failing to turn in the reports. A Price campaign employee has filed two complaints with the state ethics agency that decides whether, and how much, to fine candidates who flout the disclosure laws. Prosecutors could also pursue misdemeanor charges.

Price, who is facing federal bribery and corruption charges, jumped on the opportunity to bite at his toughest political opponent in the 30 years Price has represented southern Dallas County.

FILE - Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price (Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News)

FILE – Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price (Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News)

Judging from the Caraway campaign’s flurry of ads, billboards, employees and mailers, Price said, he “will wager my life” that his challenger has spent at least $500,000 – far more than previous county candidates.

Caraway said he believed he had spent closer to $150,000. Price, meanwhile, has raised $106,935 and spent $133,420, his reports show. 

“Most of the people that are supporting him don’t want their names divulged, come on … because it’s white North Dallas!” Price said. “The black community ain’t spending a half-million dollars in no dadgum local races.”

Caraway slapped back, saying that Price “has always been supported by North Dallas,” and named some prominent Dallas residents. “So he needs to explain that.”

Caraway said his campaign’s lapse came as a result of his bout with bronchitis, his campaign treasurer fighting a serious illness and the treasurer’s helper struggling with the flu.

‘Sloppy and inconsistent’

Campaign finance laws and their deadlines are important because they promote transparency, said Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

“The idea is that before they have to make a voting decision, voters should know whether there are particular interests that are bankrolling the candidates,” he said.

Voters should care if candidates don’t comply with the “fairly basic regulations” because that could point to mismanagement or disorganization, Wilson said. “What other aspects of their public life are they sloppy and inconsistent about?”

Of Caraway, Wilson said it’s “strange” that “a politician with his length of time in public service” would miss the deadlines.

Having served eight years on the city council, Caraway has been in politics a long time. He said he has always filed “accurate and on time” reports — but the county race was different.

“This is my first time running for this type of office,” he said. “I don’t know all the filing procedures and deadlines.”

Caraway said his staff keeps “good files and good records” and that voters shouldn’t draw any conclusions that his office is disorganized or mismanaged.

Two complaints filed

Vincent Hall, who works as an administrative assistant for Price, said he filed two complaints against Caraway with the Texas Ethics Commission, on Feb. 9 and on Wednesday. The commission enforces campaign finance law through civil penalties, while prosecuting attorneys can pursue criminal misdemeanor charges.

“I want to know if the money is representative of this community,” Hall said. “Or if there’s somebody on the other side of town who’s trying to make sure he gets elected because they don’t like John.”

The commission can fine candidates who flout reporting laws as much as $5,000 or three times the amount of money at issue, whichever is greater. If a candidate files late — instead of failing to file altogether — that could be a factor in determining a fine, said Ian Steusloff, the commission’s general counsel.

The two other candidates in the race, former Balch Springs mayor Cedric Davis and trucking company owner Micah B. Phillips, have also missed disclosure deadlines.

Though the county website didn’t show Phillips’ Feb. 1 report, he said he had filed it. He said he missed Monday’s deadline because he didn’t know about it and was busy. He said he had run a “very low budget” campaign, raising $4,000 and spending $3,700.

Davis said he hasn’t filed any of the reports because he’s been “so busy,” and especially “these last days, it’s crazy.” He said he has raised close to $10,000 and spent about $8,800 since announcing his candidacy in October.

Dwaine Caraway failed to file last two campaign finance reports in race against John Wiley Price – Dallas Morning News (blog)}