Don’t believe it? Just read on to learn more about how I came to these conclusions.
The last deadline for filing campaign financial reports was January 31, and for end-of-year records. Which I overlooked, I admit, having tons of end-of-the-month duties to complete. So I have to acknowledge some fault in this, I guess.
But that error isn’t exactly a Ken Ard case of spending campaign funds after the election on women’s clothing or trips to the SEC championship. I mean, I have a whopping balance of $15.82 from my mere $10,000 in election contributions, and only thanks to a partial refund I recently got from the Post & Courier (which apparently didn’t run my online banner ad as much I paid for, thankyouverymuch). There hasn’t been any other activity to report.
The mistake I made isn’t anywhere near the magnitude of errors within the filing program itself, either. There’s been something wrong with it since the first time I used it. There was a new wrong this time, too; the program is consistently changed and updated, but apparently harms itself (and filers) in the process. And I’m quite fed up with it.
The first problem arose from what I originally thought would be an improvement. “Click here to update the FEC filing program,” was the message received upon first opening my “FECFILE” folder. Hoo hoo! Get updated, brother, cuz me and Fuzzy sure know you need it!
But it somehow deleted the saved copies of my previous filings after I clicked, leaving me without the records I needed as reference. They were gone. Absent. Inaccessible. Missing in action from the folder.
Fuzzy offered consolation by rubbing her head upon my forearm, but it didn’t make me feel any better.
That left me with need to scramble up all the paper records and receipts and banking statements I have for reference (pushing the attention-starved cat off my lap in the process). But I couldn’t enter all the information in the correct entry categories, either. I clicked the “loans, payments and other expenses” tab to enter the $75 I returned myself, but the needed Line 19 for record of personal loan repayment wouldn’t show as an option. It only brought me to a dead end.
To hell with it, I thought; I can just report that meager repayment of $75 as a general expense, and list details of its self-loan repayment status in the option of text description. Let the FEC figure it out itself. Fuzzy meowed her agreement to my premise.
I then saved this latest report. It can’t be uploaded unless it’s saved, after all. But when I tried to upload it to the FEC, I got message of its rejection. The beginning date I entered (November 22) was the same as the closing date of the last filing period, the on-screen notice explained, thus the file couldn’t be accepted. Big deal, I thought. Just reopen it and correct the one digit to November 23, right? That’ll please those anal-retentive FEC folks, won’t it?
Wrong! The program wouldn’t let me! No modifications could be made to a saved report, said the error message. So, it wouldn’t let me upload the report because of that one small error, and it wouldn’t allow me to correct it, either. Not having any other visible option, I had to scrap that report and start all over.
I opened a new report file and re-entered the data, this time with the desired date, and proceeded to upload anew. The cat was then crouched in a corner of the desk, interested in keeping a close eye on what’s going on but too fearful to come within reach of my madly-typing fingers.
It was again rejected, though. This time, the error message stated that the candidate and committee IDs were incorrect.
I’m familiar with that problem from previous filings; the font used in this program makes zeros and capital Os indistinguishable, after all. That’s why, when completing this most recent filing, I took a path to avoid that problem. I selected an option that allowed me to search those numbers right from the FEC records and simply click on them for their direct entry into my report. But this time, it was the program itself that couldn’t distinguish them.
In other words, I asked the FEC for the ID and then repeated that same ID back to the FEC, but only to have the FEC tell me the ID it itself just gave me was incorrect.
That left me in the same position I was in for earlier filings – a series of hunt-and-peck operations using all the variations until I got the correct version, giving myself a crude nail clipping in the process as I stabbed the keyboard with my fingers.
“Why didn’t it tell me the same error on the first attempt?” I asked the cat, who now assumed a safer position near my feet. Fuzzy didn’t know the answer.
And what happened when I tried to submit this newer version of the report? That’s right – similar to my first attempt, it wouldn’t allow me to save the changes. So I had to scrap it and start anew. Which I objected to with frustration by waving my arms and stomping my feet.
By that point, Fuzzy was backed against a distant wall. She assumed the arched position of defense, but still retained enough cat curiosity to remain as witness in the office. She watched me slowly enter all the same information yet again, her ears folded back upon her head to buffer the volume of the vulgarities that spewed from my mouth.
Having all the information typed up once more, I quickly calmed down. I took deep breaths. This is it, I thought. It’s over. The third time’s the charm. I welcomed Fuzzy back into my lap so she could join me in witnessing the successful upload of the data.
But it still didn’t happen! This time, yet another newly-found, previously-ignored (and only alleged) “error” was reported to me, blocking the process again! Which only made me angrier and had me yell louder.
“Why didn’t it tell me of this error before?” I again asked the cat, now inspired by the program’s first-time notice of an absent electronic signature, and while wildly jabbing at the monitor with a cup of then-cold coffee, which proceeded to splash down upon the desk.
And upon Fuzzy, too, who responded in a way that must come as natural instinct for cats in stressful situations. She sunk her long claws into my legs.
Thankfully, she spared us both any additional torture by leaping from my lap before my coffee-dripping hands could grab her. And while I don’t know if it’s me or Fuzzy who gets the credit for re-gathering my focus, I immediately returned to the filing duties on hand.
Perhaps a blessing in disguise, the rapid flow of plasma from fresh claw wounds must have reduced my blood pressure, clearing my mind and giving me impetus and opportunity to complete the procedure one more time.
“A cat may have nine lives, but you have only four,” I warned the supposedly-updated and improved filing program. “Do it right this time … or else.” With bloody thighs and fingers I completed the report, which was finally accepted by the electronic filing system.
What made the difference on that last attempt? I still don’t know. All I can think about is the fact that I still have a chump-change balance, meaning I’ll have to do this yet again in the future (at a date I promise to remember). And I’ll be sure to have no cats or coffee present during the process, too.
Let me close this tale with a personal message to the FEC (which does not stand for “Fuzzy, the Elated Cat”): puh-LEEZE come up with a final, modified, properly-operating electronic reporting system.
If you don’t, my pet would like to have a word with you.
(In case you didn't know it, yes - I did accept a last-minute nomination to run for Congress in 2010. See that website here.)