FBI raid no excuse for not filing campaign report

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Campaign finance officials offered little sympathy Wednesday to a Tennessee Republican lawmaker who said he was unable to complete a recent election finance report due the FBI confiscating all his campaign files.

Newly sworn-in Republican Rep. Todd Warner was one of several state lawmakers whose homes and legislative offices were searched by federal agents earlier this year. Warner eventually sent an email to the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Ethics Commission that he could not complete his most recent campaign finance report because he did not have access to key documents.

Warner’s case was deferred to the Registry of Election Finance board, which disagreed with Warner’s argument during a meeting Wednesday.

“You don’t get a pass just because the FBI raided your stuff. You have to do the best you can,” said Registry member Henry Fincher, a former lawmaker who joked that he’s known for being the most lenient on report mishaps on the board.

“‘The FBI took my paperwork’ is not excuse for not filing your report,” Fincher added.

Neither Warner nor his attorney attended the meeting.

Registry member David Golden pointed out that Warner’s initial email failed to explicitly state that the FBI’s action made it impossible for the Republican to file the campaign finance report, which was due in January.

Overall, the Registry settled on sending a letter to Warner that it doesn’t have the authority to waive or extend filing requirements.

Federal authorities have not indicated what they are investigating after showing up to search the homes and legislative offices of Warner, former GOP House Speaker Glen Casada, state Rep. Robin Smith and former Casada chief of staff Cade Cothren. Agents visited Warner’s business address as well.

In addition, three legislative staffers were subject to the search early this month and placed on paid administrative leave. The searches took place at the legislative office building in Nashville and other locations across the state.

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