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Georgetown Democrats pay fine

The Georgetown County Democratic Party's quarterly expense and contribution reports have been filed with the S.C. Ethics Commission, as required by state law.

The ethics commission fined the local Democratic party $400 on Jan. 21 for not filing any of its reports in 2009. A day later all missing reports were filed with the ethics commission, according to online records.

The party has about $2,000 in its accounts.

"Even though the county party was not contacted by the ethics commission regarding this issue, we take full responsibility for the oversight," said Georgetown County Democratic Party Chairwoman Hannah Cromley. "This was an unintentional error on our part."

The party went through a change in leadership in 2009, with a new chairperson and treasurer.

The Democrats are now in compliance with the state law but still need to pay the $400 fine, said executive director Herbert Hayden, with the commission.

The party had 10 days after receiving the letter, which was mailed Jan. 21, to pay the fine. The fine was $100 per report.

The missing expenditure and contribution reports came to the commission's attention after someone called and reported it to the noncompliance department, Hayden said.

The commission does send out reminders to candidates, elected officials, political parties and political action committees about filing the quarterly reports several times a year, he said.

Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel is less forgiving of the Democrats' actions.

"In less than two years, the Democrats have been found guilty and fined for multiple campaign finance reporting violations," he said.

"The trend is clear -- the Democrats are not being upfront with the public, as required by law, about who their financial supporters are and how they spend the money."

In 2008 the party was fined $100 for not reporting in-kind contributions from the United Steelworker's Union.

The party did not disclose use of the United Steelworker Union Hall in Georgetown on a part-time basis for meeting and for storage.

The ethics commission found that the Democratic Party violated the law unintentionally. The party later filed the proper paperwork. Cromley was not the chairwoman at the time. She took over in March 2009.

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