Cheng over-contributed $73,508 to 2018 mayoral campaign: Audit
LONDON, ONT. -- A compliance audit of Paul Cheng’s 2018 mayoral campaign concludes he exceeded his candidate contribution limit, and jumped the gun by campaigned prior to the start of the election period.
CTV News has obtained a copy of the audit report prepared for city hall’s Election Compliance Audit Committee. It responds to complaints that Cheng campaigned before the legal start of the campaign period and exceeded the $25,000 limit on candidate contributions to their own campaign.
“I’m hoping it will make people think twice during the next election about trying to do something similar,” explains Lincoln McCardle, one of two Londoners to file complaints with city hall almost two years ago.
The recently completed report by auditor William Molson concludes, “It appears that Cheng contributed $98,508.26 to his campaign and thereby exceeded his permitted contribution limit of $25,000 by $73,508.26.”
McCardle believes the limit prevents candidates from using personal wealth as a competitive advantage to seeking elected office.
“It would have made it difficult to compete against that candidate for a lot of people.” adds McCardle. “Maybe this evens the playing field a little bit.”
The auditor admits that the overage is based on the best information available because, “Approximately 45 percent of apparent campaign expenses were not recorded in the campaign records provided to the external auditor for audit.”
After finishing second in the 2014 race to become mayor, Cheng finished fourth in 2018.
Paul Cheng had no comment about the audit report when contacted by CTV News.
During a news conference just days before the October 2018 election, Cheng denied exceeding the $25,000 limit.
“These allegations are speculative and untrue,” he told the media at the time.
In April 2019, Cheng admitted to the Election Compliance Audit Committee he exceeded the limit, an amount cited in his campaign finances as a $19,999 deficit covered with his own money.
“I unintentionally spent more of my personal funds,” explained Cheng in 2019.
Some of the expenses were incurred before candidates could legally start campaigning.
According to the Municipal Elections Act, campaigning can not begin prior to registering as a candidate.
The registration period began May 1, 2018.
The audit determined that in December 2017, Chang rented an office inside 536 Queens Avenue, and that some of the activities led to expenses and candidate contributions prior to the campaign period.
“Cheng apparently accepted contributions in-kind of $750 and incurred expenses of $23,785.22 prior to registering as a candidate on May 1, 2018,” writes Molson.
Those expenses were related to rent, exterior office signage, creation of a Youtube video, and development of the website paulchenglondon.ca.
“Cheng as a registered candidate was responsible to ensure the correct reporting of transactions in his (campaign’s) Financial Statement,” reads the report.
McCardle hopes consequences under the Municipal Elections Act for campaigning early and over contributing will serve as a warning to candidates in 2022.
“I would hate to have a precedent where people can break the rules with no consequences and continue to run in future elections.”
The Compliance Audit Committee has yet to schedule a meeting to decide if the audit report’s findings should be forwarded to the courts for consideration.