A Precinct 3 McLennan County commissioner candidate listed a contribution from a corporation in the latest campaign finance report, which may violate state law.
Ben Matus, who is running for the Precinct 3 seat against Commissioner Will Jones, listed a $1,000 campaign contribution from Jupe Mills Inc., in West, on the report submitted to the Elections Office on Monday.
But when asked about the contribution, Matus said the report should have listed the owner of the West business, Ervin Jupe, as having made that donation, not the company itself.
“I need to correct that,” Matus said.
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara also listed in his campaign finance report accepting money from a corporation, but in the same report documented that he had refunded the money once the error was caught. McNamara received $500 from Waco Good Fellows Inc. in Woodway.
“When we realized that was a corporate check, we just had to give that money back,” McNamara said.
He said one of his campaign’s paid workers deposited the check.
Corporation officials and candidates could face third-degree felony charges and civil penalties if a corporation donates to a candidate and the candidate knowingly accepts the contribution.
A Texas Secretary of State spokesperson said Jupe Mills Inc. is listed as a corporation.
Ian Steusloff, assistant general counsel with the Texas Ethics Commission, said under campaign finance laws, a corporation is prohibited from making political contributions to a candidate and a candidate is prohibited from accepting that donation. The statute lists the different entities considered corporations. A limited liability company, for example, is permitted to make political contributions, Steusloff said.
If a complaint is made, the Texas Ethics Commission has the authority to investigate an allegation that a corporation made a prohibited contribution or that a candidate unlawfully accepted that donation, he said. The commission can assess a civil penalty.
A criminal penalty also can be assessed for a corporation making contribution or a candidate unlawfully accepting that donation, Steusloff said. A prosecutor would bring that third-degree felony charge, not the commission, he said.
Steusloff said corporations have an additional knowledge requirement that does not apply to candidates. A corporation can violate the policy without knowing its existence; however, a candidate has to accept a contribution from a corporation knowing it is unlawful in order for that candidate to face penalties, he said.
Jones declined to comment on Matus’ report.
Jupe did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
Early voting continues from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The primary election is March 1, with a runoff election set for May 24, if needed.
The first campaign finance reports were due to the county Jan. 15 and included contributions and expenditures through Dec. 31, and the second round of reports was filed Feb. 1 detailing contributions and expenditures through January. The latest reports picked up at the last report and ran through Feb. 20.
Matus, 63, of West, has been an auto-repair instructor at Texas State Technical College for the past 29 years.
Matus’ latest campaign finance report ran from Jan. 22 through Feb. 20 and listed $1,200 in contributions and $4,073.17 in expenditures.
In total, he has raised $1,350 in political contributions and spent $9,465.57, according to his filings.
Jones, 44, of Waco, reported in his most recent campaign finance report a $1,500 donation from the Texas Association of Realtors PAC.
Since July 1, Jones raised $28,405 in political contributions and spent $20,277, according to his reports.
Jones defeated Democrat Brian Scott in November 2012 in the race to replace retired Commissioner Joe Mashek.
In the beginning of the race for Precinct 3, Matus said Jones twice offered to pay him the price of his filling fee to drop out of the race. Jones confirmed he made the offer, but said it was a business transaction, not a bribe.
McLennan County Sheriff candidates also submitted their latest campaign finance reports, showing continued high contributions for McNamara.
McNamara, Waco police Sgt. Patrick Swanton and Pastor Willie Tompkins are all running as Republicans. There is no Democrat in the race.
Since July 1, 2015, McNamara has received $125,320 in political contributions and spent $111,973, according to his reports.
McNamara’s highest donors this campaign finance report cycle include $5,000 from Steven Cutbirth, of Waco; $3,000 from the Waco Association of Realtors PAC; $2,000 from John Cawthron, of Waco; and $2,000 from Randy Crook, of Waco.
Since July 17, Swanton has received $49,024 in political contributions and spent $42,188, according to his latest report.
Tompkins has received $2,148 in political contributions and spent $1,660, according to his reports.
Tompkins ran as a Democrat against McNamara in 2012. During that race, he received 29 percent of the vote in his first run for sheriff.
The McLennan County Commissioners Court has a second contested race as well.
Cory Priest, of Lorena, has challenged Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Snell, who owns Texas Electrical Energy Savers Inc.
Since July 1, Priest, who owns a cattle business and real estate and is co-owner of a construction company in Waco, has received $5,338 in political contributions and spent $11,407, according to reports.
Since July 1, Snell has raised $14,345 and spent $14,878, according to his reports. Snell also received $1,500 from the Texas Association of Realtors.
Snell was first elected in 2009 after defeating three-term incumbent Wendall Crunk in the 2008 Republican primary.