Perrin C. Hamilton, Philadelphia, for appellants.
Nathan L. Posner, Philadelphia, for appellee.
David E. Prewitt, Frederick L. Voight, Philadelphia, for amicus curiae, Committee of Seventy.
Eagen, C. J., and O'Brien, Roberts, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Nix, J., concurred in the result. Roberts, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which Pomeroy, J., joined. Packel, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.
On June 18, 1976 appellants, five electors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, filed a petition in the Commonwealth Court seeking to compel the appellees to file a supplemental account for the political committee known as Pennsylvanians for Shapp-Kline. The appellants are Robert J. Butera, Richard J. Tilghman, Stephen F. Friend, Nicholas J. Maiale and James R. Ronca. In addition to the political committee, Pennsylvanians for Shapp-Kline, the appellees are Milton J. Shapp and Ernest P. Kline, who were candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively, in the general election of 1974, and Nancy Mawby, who served as treasurer of the committee.
Pursuant to Section 1607(a) of the Pennsylvania Election Code, 25 P.S. § 3227(a) (Supp.1977-78), the committee filed an account with the Bureau of Elections on December 5, 1974, listing disbursements made, contributions received, and liabilities of the committee as of November 4, 1974, the day before the general election. In their complaint, appellants alleged that as a result of a newspaper article appearing in a Philadelphia newspaper on May 21, 1976, they became aware of additional funds contributed to the committee, received before and after the election, which were not reported to the Bureau of Elections. Appellants prayed for an accounting of receipts and expenditures not yet reported, as well as an audit of the accounts. Appellees filed preliminary objections to the petition, including a demurrer, contending (1) that there was no statutory duty to file the supplemental
report requested and (2) that the request for an audit was untimely since more than 30 days had elapsed since the filing of the committee's account on December 5, 1974.
The Commonwealth Court sustained respondents' preliminary objections and dismissed the petition. In its view, the Election Code contemplated the filing of a single expense account within thirty days after an election, and the Code did not oblige a candidate to file "supplemental expense accounts" for contributions received after an election. Second, the court determined that appellant's request for an audit of the expense account actually filed by the Committee was barred by § 1611 of the Election Code. Since the petition for an audit was filed more than eighteen months after the last day for filing the challenged expense account, and § 1611's thirty-day period was deemed mandatory rather than directory, the court determined that the petition was untimely. We conclude that the Commonwealth Court properly dismissed the complaint and therefore affirm its order.
Section 1607 of the Pennsylvania Election Code concerns the filing of expense accounts and provides in relevant part:
"Every candidate for nomination or election, and every treasurer of a political committee, or person acting as such treasurer, shall, within thirty days after every primary and election at which such candidate was voted for or with which such political committee was concerned, if the amount received or expended or liabilities incurred shall exceed the sum of one hundred fifty dollars, file a full, true, and detailed account, subscribed and sworn to by him, setting forth each and every sum of money received, contributed or disbursed by him for primary or election expenses, the date of each receipt, contribution and disbursement, the name of the person from whom received or to whom paid, and the specific object or purpose for which the same was disbursed." 25 P.S. § 3227(a) (Supp.1977-78). (Emphasis added.)
We agree with the Commonwealth Court's conclusion that:
"[Section 1607] requires the filing of a single expense account within a thirty-day period after the election, and the committee here met these requirements with the filing of an expense account on December 5, 1974. Moreover, there is clearly no continuing obligation on a candidate or on the political committee to file additional supplemental expense accounts for contributions received after an election. Whether or not the law should contain additional requirements is not before us here. Any change, however salutary, is a matter exclusively for legislative consideration." 28 Pa. Commw. 163, 368 A.2d 858 (1977).
Appellants argue that the purpose of the Code is to subject to public scrutiny all campaign contributions, whenever received. However true that may be, we may not, under the pretext of furthering the object and purpose of the Election Code, disregard its letter and incorporate into the Code's accounting requirements a provision which the Legislature did not include. See Lurie v. Republican Alliance, 412 Pa. 61, 65, 192 A.2d 367, 370 (1963); Commonwealth ex rel. Fox v. Swing, 409 Pa. 241, 247, 186 A.2d 24, 27 (1962); 1 Pa.C.S. § 1921(b) (Supp.1977-78).
Appellants cite In re Friends of McErlean, 431 Pa. 334, 246 A.2d 341 (1968), and Lurie v. Republican Alliance, 412 Pa. 61, 192 A.2d 367 (1963), as precedent for elevating "substantive legislative intent" over the Election Code's "procedural scheme." We think appellants' reading of those cases is erroneous. In Lurie, we said that in resolving ambiguities in the Code, or when a particular section was obscure, the Code's object and purpose were entitled to major consideration in determining its construction. 412 Pa. at 64, 192 A.2d at 370. Not only have we determined that the Election Code is unambiguous insofar as post-election contributions are concerned, but we also reaffirmed in Lurie our unwavering position that we may not, under the rubric statutory interpretation, add to legislation matters conspicuously absent therefrom. Id. at 65, 192 A.2d at 370. The Commonwealth Court correctly observed that
"[b]oth McErlean and Lurie are authority for the proposition that it is within the power of [the courts] to compel a candidate or a political committee to produce an expense account after the expiration of the thirty-day period after the election if that has not been done. Neither case holds that it is necessary for a candidate or committee to file more than one expense account, nor could such a holding be properly made under the law as it now exists." (Emphasis in original). 28 Pa. Commw. at 167, 368 A.2d at 860.
Appellants have also renewed in this Court other arguments which were presented to the Commonwealth Court. We conclude that the Commonwealth Court properly disposed of these contentions as well, and we therefore quote the relevant portions of the Commonwealth Court's opinion:
"As to the other relief sought by the petitioners, an audit of the expense account filed by the committee on December 5, 1974, Section 1611 of the Election Code, 25 P.S. § 3231, deals with ...