Raleigh, N.C. — Dr. Greg Brannon, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has failed to file an ethics disclosure form required by federal law and Senate rules.
Candidates for Senate are responsible for filing the "financial disclosure reports" withing 30 days of "becoming a candidate." A lawyer for the Senate Ethics Committee says someone becomes a candidate when he or she raises or spends $5,000 toward a campaign. Candidates must continue to file annual reports for as long as they remain candidates.
Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Brannon crossed the $5,000 threshold sometime in the first three months of 2013.
The ethics form details sources of income, stock ownership and other entanglements that candidates for Senate have with businesses that may be affected by the laws Congress hands down. Brannon's report does not appear online, and a clerk for the U.S. Senate's public records office told WRAL News Tuesday night that there was no record of the Cary obstetrician filing one.
The penalty for failing to file the form is slight – a $200 fine. However, it is something likely to be used by political opponents and a point of concern for good-government watchdogs.
"This is a very significant breach, especially when you're dealing with a U.S. Senate candidate," said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen, a nonpartisan good-government watchdog based in Washington, D.C. "The public needs to know if there are any serious conflicts of interest."
A spokesman for Brannon's campaign said he didn't know why the form wasn't showing up.
"We filed this many, many months ago," said Reilly O'Neal. He said the campaign did encounter problems last year when it tried to file the paperwork, so it was possible something got lost in the shuffle. "I don't have an explanation for why they did not put it up there...We may have to re-send them something we already have filed away."
Holman said that, despite the slight fine, the absence of a form could cause a problem for Brannon.
"Perhaps the greatest penalty is their opponents can start raising questions about what it is the candidate is hiding," Holman said.
No fewer than seven Republicans are vying for the opportunity to challenge Sen. Kay Hagan, an incumbent Democrat seeking her second six-year term in office. State House Speaker Thom Tillis is the leading contender in terms of money and poll numbers. Brannon, along with Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte, a former president of the State Baptist Convention, are the speaker's two strongest challengers.
Both Harris and Tillis have filed their disclosure forms, as has Hagan. Three of the other four candidates who have filed paperwork to join in the Republican primary race don't appear to have raised or spent enough to trigger reporting requirements. The exception in that cohort appears to be Heather Grant, a nurse with relatively low poll numbers who reported raising just over $9,000 by the end of the year. The Senate's online system did not have her report either when accessed Wednesday morning.
This is the latest in a series of disclosure questions that has buffeted Brannon's campaign over the past month. A Wake County civil jury found him liable for defrauding investors, and a check of county tax records showed he was late in filing his property tax payments for 2013.