A Saratoga Springs mayoral candidate’s campaign is playing cleanup after her website erroneously informed supporters that contributions were tax-deductible.
Shortly after the campaign website of Democrat Joanne Yepsen went live and for the past few days, the donation page has read, “Contributions are tax deductible.” However, these types of contributions are not tax-deductible under state and federal tax law. The error was fixed Tuesday afternoon, less than an hour after The Gazette notified her campaign about the incorrect language.
Yepsen spokesman Stephen Napier said the language was an error made by a contractor the campaign hired to create and maintain the website. He had been aware of the mistake when the donation page initially went up, but at that time he believed the problem had been fixed.
The Gazette noticed the error Saturday night.
Napier described the mistake as campaign “minutia” about which Yepsen was never briefed. After being told of the error, he promised to fire the campaign’s website contractor if it wasn’t fixed within the hour.
“I’ll be reaching out to each donor individually to be sure that there was no confusion on their end,” he said via email Tuesday. At least eight people have contributed to Yepsen’s mayoral campaign online so far, her website said Tuesday afternoon.
According to state Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin, it is not a specific violation of election law to advertise that contributions are tax-deductible. “If we received a complaint, the Enforcement Counsel would send a letter telling them to provide correct information,” he said in an email Tuesday.
Democratic election law lawyer Kathleen O’Keefe characterized the language as a mistake and didn’t believe anyone connected to the campaign was trying to claim something that wasn’t true.
Saratoga Springs Republican Committee Chairman David Harper said he was puzzled by the mistake, since Yepsen is a veteran of multiple campaigns.
“It makes you wonder what other financial or tax mistakes she would make if elected mayor,” he said.
In response to this, Napier said: “That’s totally out of bounds. It’s not something she was aware of or should have been.”
This is not the first campaign finance issue linked to Yepsen, whose campaign committee for supervisor incorrectly had a negative balance in its January filing with the state, according to Napier.
“There was an accounting error from Joanne’s previous treasurer,” he wrote in an email. “[A] new treasurer is working with the Board of Elections to fix everything.”
Napier added that Yepsen was not involved in the campaign committee’s bookkeeping and that there was never actually a negative balance.
State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said Yepsen’s treasurer is working with the BOE’s Campaign Finance Unit. He said two amendments were filed April 8, which was three days after the Gazette contacted Yepsen about the negative balance.
There were some technical problems with the submission of the amendments and Yepsen’s campaign is working on the problems, according to Conklin.
Yepsen is the only declared candidate for mayor; incumbent Republican Scott Johnson is not seeking re-election. A Republican candidate is likely to emerge after the city Republicans have their annual meeting May 13.