Posted: Jan. 22, 2004; updated: Jan. 23, 2004
CAMPAIGN REPORT RAISES A
By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer
The 2003 campaign finance
report filed this week by Karen Weldin Stewart, a Democratic
candidate for insurance commissioner, has caught the attention of
state election officials because of an unusually high-dollar amount
in un-itemized contributions.
Stewart reported that she
collected a total of $65,920 -- including $63,370 in contributions
of $100 or less.
Under Delaware law, small
donations of that size do not have to be listed individually and
instead may be reported in a lump sum. Contributions between $100
and $1,200, the maximum for statewide candidates, have to be
Stewart's filing raises
questions about how much she collected and how she collected it.
"It popped out at us," said
Frank B. Calio, the state elections commissioner. "We don't usually
see something like that."
Stewart, a Wilmington
insurance consultant, was the Democrats' 2000 nominee for
insurance commissioner. After messages asking for comment were left
for her Thursday, she telephoned Friday at 7:30 a.m. to reply.
She said she raised
the un-itemized contributions from a mailing list of 5,000 names,
although she was not sure how many people sent her money. She said
they donated in small amounts because they did not want to be
"People don't want their
names to be seen," Stewart said. "Some of them work for the
Insurance Department. Some of them work for consumer groups."
Calio said he will send
Stewart a letter, giving her a week to account for the un-itemized
contributions. If she says it is a mistake, Calio said he will
accept an amended report, but if she does not respond, he said he
will turn the matter over to the Attorney General's Office to
Filing a false election
report is a crime, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail
and a $2,300 fine, according to the Attorney General's Office.
In the 30 years the election
law has been on the books, only one candidate has been prosecuted
and convicted for violating it. As part of a corruption
investigation into New Castle County politics, Susan C. Holmes, a
Democrat who ran for County Council president in 1988, was sentenced
to six months in jail but transferred to work release after six
Campaign finance reports,
covering candidates' contributions and expenditures for 2003, were
due to be filed or postmarked by Tuesday, and Stewart's report was
received Wednesday. It was one of three reports in what has been a
surprisingly lively race for the staid and often overlooked office
of insurance commissioner.
On the Republican side,
three-term incumbent Donna Lee Williams turned in her campaign
records as the law requires, even though she delivered a bombshell
announcement earlier this month that she would not seek re-election.
Republicans have yet to settle on another candidate.
On the Democratic side,
Matthew P. Denn, a Wilmington lawyer who was counsel to Gov. Ruth
Ann Minner, also submitted a report.
The filings from Williams
and Denn were markedly different from Stewart's.
Williams listed $93,388 in
total contributions with only $3,488 un-itemized. Denn had $123,048
in total contributions and itemized them all -- even $9 each from a
Wilmington couple. Williams reported about 170 contributors and Denn
Stewart would need more than
600 contributors for her total in un-itemized money. She was known
to hold at least one fund-raiser in June at $50 a ticket.
Calio was not the only
Delaware officeholder Stewart was to hear from. Also Thursday, the
office of U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. asked her to remove a
reference to him from her campaign Web site. It is a quotation from
Biden, a fellow Democrat, saying he supports her candidacy, but the
Web site at karenweldinstewart.com does not disclose that the
quotation is from four years ago when Stewart was the nominee.
"Sen. Biden hasn't endorsed
anybody in the race. He has a very longstanding policy of not
getting involved in primaries, and it [the quotation] could be
misconstrued," said Margaret Aitken, the senator's press secretary.
Stewart said the Web site
has not been updated in four years, and she would comply with
Biden's request. "I guess I'm going to have to," she said.
Biden's quotation was
highlighted in red. For Stewart, however, this has not exactly been
a red-letter day.
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