Lynchburg City Councilmember apparently violated campaign finance law

Lynchburg & Central Virginia News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Lynchburg City Councilmember Jeff Helgeson apparently violated Virginia campaign finance laws in his last campaign.

Helgeson won re-election to represent Ward III in May. According to the Facebook ad library, Helgeson ran ads before and after the election that were paid for by his campaign. His campaign finance reports from that time show payments on radio advertisements, but not Facebook.

Anyone running for office in Virginia has to publicly disclose money received as donations and any money they spend on the campaign.

“The guy who ran my campaign has always paid those ads and done those ads as part of the fees,” said Helgeson in a phone interview with WFXR News. “This time, I guess it wasn’t, I had to run them myself.”

He said not reporting those ads was an oversight.

“First time actually running the Facebook ads, and then you put a credit card on something and you get 1,000 emails and you don’t see what was even billed. And so I’m glad I pulled that up now and say hey, I didn’t reimburse myself for that.”

WFXR News Political Analyst and Virginia Tech political science professor Karen Hult explains why these campaign finance reports are important.

“Then voters can have a sense of what’s going on with the campaign and to whom individual candidates might be supported and to whom they might be beholden.”

Hult says incomplete reports are easily fixed.

“Filing an amended report would be the first next step, and also under state law, there is a best-effort notion, so that it would not necessarily be seen as a violation.”

She says violations found to be intentional can come with a $100 fine.

“I did these ads,” said Helgeson, “which was just 90 bucks, and we’re going to amend the report.”

Helgeson told WFXR News he completed the amended reports Thursday evening.

WFXR News also looked into the other sitting council members. They either did not run Facebook ads last year, or it appears they were all reported.

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