Supreme Court denies request to audit campaign finances

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied a petition that requests an audit of legislative candidate Jason Dawkins’ campaign finances.

The request with the high court echoes claims in a Commonwealth Court petition filed in late spring that Dawkins, the Democratic candidate for the 179th Legislative District, broke state election laws and should be prosecuted.

The Commonwealth Court petition was denied in August. The appeal of that decision was denied by the Supreme Court Oct. 21. Raymond Roberts, attorney for the petitioners, said he was informed of the decision Oct. 23.

Dawkins described the petition as “frivolous.”

Although state Rep. James Clay Jr. said last Wednesday he was paying for the legal action, his name is not among the several persons named on the request. Clay lost to Dawkins in the spring Democratic primary. Dawkins has no opponent in the upcoming general election.

Listed among the petitioners were Clay’s father, Rev. James W. Clay Sr.; Clay Jr.’s wife, Shakeya; and Clay’s campaign manager, Thomas Neilson.

Although the earlier Commonwealth Court petition sought to remove Dawkins from the ballot, the Supreme Court petition, filed Oct. 14, didn’t.

“If he gets three votes, he wins,” Clay aide Steve Bayne said of Dawkins last week. The petition, he said, was not going to stop the election, but he added that, if the court allowed the audit of Dawkins’ campaign finances, charges could be brought against Dawkins, and, if he were found guilty, he would not be seated in the state House.

Dawkins said the petition was filed only to make trouble for him.

“It’s not to remove me from the ballot or send me to jail,” he said. “It’s a sore loser move.”

When Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey denied the earlier petition, she acknowledged there were de minimus violations for the rules of election code. De minimus is an abbreviation of the Latin de minimis non curat lex, or, “the law cares not for small things.”

Among the allegations in the Commonwealth Court petition, it was asserted that Dawkins’ campaign did not file campaign finance reports required by state law, that his campaign treasurer, Kisha Thompson, fraudulently collected money for his campaign and that she “willfully and substantially violated a huge number of rules and regulations under the Election Code.”

In the Supreme Court petition, Roberts wrote, “The grounds for the appeal have merit in that the Commonwealth Court decided that although the petitioner’s allegations had merit, they amounted to a de minimus violation of the rules of the election code. The ruling also seemed to disregard solid evidence of election code violations, but the trial court seemed to feel that the respondents did not have the intent to violate the code even though they had to admit they had received instruction on how to properly handle campaign finance issues.”

Dawkins said he told the court he found out he had made some mistakes, but said he had consulted professionals and asked Pennsylvania’s Department of State for guidance.

In the Supreme Court’s online docket for the case, it is listed simply as denied. Roberts said the court doesn’t have to give a reason. ••