The Nevada Supreme Court Thursday upheld a district court ruling and put an end to what is now an eight-year-old case of a candidate refusing to comply with Nevada election law.
Carolyn Bauer ran as an Independent American Party candidate in the 2002 election cycle for Washoe Senate District 1, the seat held for the past decade by Democrat Bernice Mathews. But Bauer refused to fill out the campaign contribution and expense reports required of all candidates seeking political office.
She wrote on one blank contributions form: "I do hereby claim my rights against self-incrimination and must, therefore, decline to fill out this form and/or sign it under penalties of perjury."
Failure to do so can bring a maximum $5,000 fine for each of the three mandatory reports plus attorney's fees if the state has to go to court.
Then-Secretary of State Dean Heller took her to court but the case dragged on for several years. Finally, his successor Ross Miller won an order from District Judge William Maddox granting the secretary of state's office summary judgment in the case. Maddox awarded the maximum $15,000 for refusing to properly file the three contribution and expense reports, $2,424 in interest and attorney's fees of $20,101. Miller said at the time he believed the total $37,525 judgment was the largest in Nevada history for a campaign finance violation.
Thursday, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld Maddox's ruling granting summary judgment in the case and denying Bauer a new district court trial. The order states that Bauer failed to complete the required reports and that the Fifth Amend-ment right against self-incrimination doesn't apply in this situation, because that right only exists in the context of criminal prosecutions, not in a civil case.
The court ruled the Fifth Amendment "does not give Bauer the right to withhold required information on her campaign reports."