Former Rep. Courtney Curtis — who has had multiple run-ins with the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) — was fined more than $77,000 for an array of alleged campaign finance violations.
The six-member state panel found the former Democratic lawmaker — who is now in the Ferguson mayoral race — failed to report more than $40,000 in contributions while spending thousands that “did not appear to be for committee purposes.” All of the alleged violations took place while Curtis was still a member of the Missouri House.
According to the order, Curtis and his campaign, Curtis for MO:
- Failed to maintain and official fund depository
- Accepted contributions and made expenditures through accounts that were not the official fund depository account
- Used campaign contributions for unauthorized purposes
- Used committee funds for expenditures reimbursed by the House of Representatives
- Commingled committee funds with funds of others
- Accepted cash contributions and made cash expenditures in excess of the limits
- Failed to timely and accurately file campaign finance disclosure reports
- Failed to report contributions received
- Failed to report expenditures and contributions made
- Failed to maintain committee reports in accordance with accepted normal bookkeeping procedures
The MEC issued the unanimous order Tuesday more than 90 days after the initial closed hearing was held. After taking evidence at a June 21 hearing, the commission left the record open in order for Curtis — who did not attend the meeting in person or by telephone — to review the transcript and provide a written response to the evidence.
Curtis appeared by phone for the MEC’s Sept. 24 hearing.
The commission ordered Curtis and the committee pay a fee in the amount of $77,500. But Curtis can avoid paying it all if he cuts a check for $7,750 within 45 days, pay the outstanding fee from a previous case, file and amend all reports, disclose all bank accounts associated with the committee, and have no further campaign violations for two years.
This is not the largest fine Curtis and his committee have been given. In 2017, he was fined $114,050, an amount a number of veteran observers said is one of the largest fines they had ever seen. Former Sen. Robin Wright-Jones was hit with a $271,000 fee in 2013, and former Rep. Rodney Hubbard was fined $322,000 in 2010.
Failure to pay the 2017 fine — separate from a 2016 MEC fine — ultimately blocked Curtis from a 2018 state Senate bid. When Curtis sought to file for SD 14, the Missouri Democratic Party blocked him for not paying the $114,050 fee. In a court battle, the Supreme Court of Missouri sided with the party.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.