According to the Finance Report, filed at the Montgomery County Board of Elections, “Citizens for Kettering Schools,” a registered Political Action Committee (PAC), in the 2009 campaign didn’t pay sales tax on items it purchased. Here are six invoices. All six invoices, made out to the Kettering PAC, show zero sales tax was charged. Two of the invoices show that sales tax was originally calculated and then later scratched out.

I talked briefly, by phone, with Steve Harsman, the director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, and asked whether it is possible that a Political Action Committee, seeking to influence voters to support a school tax levy, could be tax-exempt. He said he didn’t think so, but didn’t know for certain.

I have a call into the Ohio Department of Taxation, to inquire if this Kettering PAC, “Citizens For Kettering Schools,” is permitted by Ohio law to be exempt from state sales tax.

I did check out a couple of the six invoices by telephoning the businesses involved. Each business confirmed what the invoices say — the Kettering PAC paid no sales tax.

It doesn’t seem reasonable, to me, that a school levy advocacy group should not pay sales tax. Tax exempt organizations, like churches, I thought, were prohibited from partisan advocacy of candidates or issues. But, experienced school people are in charge of the “Citizens for Kettering” PAC, so, I’ll be interested to learn how this zero sales tax is justified. When I find out more information I will post it.

To pay for advertisements, to promote last year’s 6.9 mill renewal levy, “Citizens For Kettering Schools” spent $13,262. Much of this money came from small donations. School employees in Kettering, I’ve learned, are permitted to have money withdrawn from their checks on a monthly basis as a contribution to the “Citizens for Kettering Schools” PAC. In the 187 pages, in the finance report, are pages and pages of names and addresses of contributors, each making small gifts of $1, $2 or $3, or so.  It sounds like these donations are for one paycheck and, so, over a year accumulate to a much larger total donation per person.

The “Citizens for Kettering Schools” PAC started the 2009 campaign to support a 6.9 mill renewal levy with about $15,951 in the bank.  The PAC spent over $13,000 in the 2009 campaign, and ended up with a reserve of $13,012. The biggest gift reported in 2009 was $1000 from the Kettering Education Association.

So, for the 2010 campaign, in preparation for the May 4 election — to gain a “Yes” vote for 6.9 additional mills– the Kettering PAC started out with over $13,000.

To find out this information about the Kettering PAC took some effort and money on my part. It required that I make the trip downtown Dayton to The Board of Elections’ office to get the finance report. At 10 cents a page, I was required to pay $18.70 for a xeroxed copy of the PAC’s Finance Report, and, then, on top of that, I had to pay $2.00 in parking fees.

I complained to Betty Smith, the Deputy Director, as I was picking up the documents, that it would seem, here in 2010, that Montgomery County would be using the tools available today, via electronic files and the internet, to make all of the “public information” more accessible to the public.

Had I known about it, I would have mentioned to Ms Smith that this very week (March 14 – 20) is “National Sunshine Week”. The Montgomery County Board of Elections, it seems to me, needs to do better in helping the public to let the light shine.

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