You are here: Home > FEC enforcement



July 14, 2011

Alabama Democrats join in FEC complaint against Romney and his PACs

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Democrats today will join their counterparts in New Hampshire to file a complaint against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, alleging he used state political action committees to circumvent stricter federal campaign finance laws. ...

Romney's national Free and Strong America PAC -- in place before Romney was officially a candidate for president -- was limited to accepting donations from individuals of no more than $5,000. But Alabama's campaign finance laws do not limit individual contributions to PACs. The Birmingham News reported July 4 that the Alabama-based version of Romney's Free and Strong America PAC last year raised about $457,000, none of it from anyone in Alabama and much of it in large checks of more than $5,000 each. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democratic Party joins complaint about Mitt Romney's state PAC fundraising | al.com

The DNC sent out a press release this morning which made this statement:

The amended complaint, which has also been sent to state authorities and seeks a full inquiry into the violations of both Federal and state laws, raises two major areas of concern:

· Romney's campaign may have violated federal and state laws in Alabama, New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Michigan by raising "soft money" contributions into State PACs and using the money to support his presidential candidacy.

· If the State PACs raised or spent soft money after Mr. Romney became a declared candidate, Mr. Romney committed an additional violation of federal law. Federal law prohibits entities "established" by federal candidates from raising or spending any "soft money." Romney clearly established these PACs and, thus, they are subject to this law. To sever ties with the PACs and escape liability for their raising and spending of "soft money," the candidate must have no material contact or involvement with the PAC for fully two years. Of course, Romney can not satisfy this two year standard. Nor has he even suggested that he could.

You can read the amended complaint filed here.

If you would like to view the campaign reports of the Romney PAC, go the Alabama Secretary of State, type "free and strong" into the Name box, and click on the Search button.

January 15, 2009

Alabama: 2 teachers claim NEA forced them to contribute to Obama

The Mobile Press-Register reports: Two Daphne Middle School educators allege in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission that their teachers union illegally funneled funds to a political action committee, and ultimately forced them to contribute to President-elect Barack Obama's campaign, according to the document.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit based in Springfield, Va., that joined and filed the complaint on behalf of the educators, asked the FEC in Washington to investigate a "union scheme" that seeks to divert members' money to the National Education Association's political action committee, according to the complaint. The Right to Work Foundation provides free legal aid to employees who feel that a union violated their human or civil rights, according to the agency's Web site.

Robert Chanin, general counsel for the National Education Association in Washington, said he hasn't seen the complaint yet, but his office will represent the local and state affiliates. Generally, officials receive instruction in federal law compliance, he said. Chanin said he believes a review of the facts will prove the association followed the law, as has been the case in previous challenges. ...

Daphne Middle School Assistant Principal Jeanne Fox and eighth-grade science teacher Claire Waites allege in their complaint that after they were elected to serve as local delegates to the July National Education Association convention in Washington, they were forced to make a donation to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. -- Two Daphne educators say teachers union made them to contribute to Obama campaign - al.com

November 17, 2008

FEC fines Sharpton presidential campaign $497k

Ben Smith writes on Politico: The wheels of the FEC can grind slow, but they just made their way to Al Sharpton's 2004 presidential campaign, and to fining him $497,000 for illegal contributions, according to MoneyLine.

The Rev.'s spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, sends over a defiant statement, saying that what the FEC takes as illegal contributions to the campaign were in fact contributions to Sharpton's nonprofit, the National Action Network; and also the fairly novel point that, since certain American Express bills in question remain unpaid, those expenditures should be excluded.

"We must have election rules that are for Senators and Congress people, or Joe the Plumber, or Al the Preacher," the statement ventures. -- Ben Smith's Blog: 'Al the Preacher' vs. FEC - Politico.com

November 11, 2008

FEC will audit McCain, but likely to bypass Obama

Politico reports: The Federal Election Commission is unlikely to conduct a potentially embarrassing audit of how Barack Obama raised and spent his presidential campaign’s record-shattering windfall, despite allegations of questionable donations and accounting that had the McCain campaign crying foul.

Adding insult to injury for Republicans: The FEC is obligated to complete a rigorous audit of McCain’s campaign coffers, which will take months, if not years, and cost McCain millions of dollars to defend.

Obama is expected to escape that level of scrutiny mostly because he declined an $84 million public grant for his campaign that automatically triggers an audit and because the sheer volume of cash he raised and spent minimizes the significance of his errors. Another factor: The FEC, which would have to vote to launch an audit, is prone to deadlocking on issues that inordinately impact one party or the other – like approving a messy and high-profile probe of a sitting president.

McCain, on the other hand, accepted the $84 million in taxpayer money, which not only barred him from raising or spending more – allowing Obama to fund many times more ads and ground operations – but also will keep his lawyers busy for a couple years explaining how every penny was spent. -- Obama likely to escape campaign audit

October 6, 2008

FEC asks McCain campaign about excess contributions

The Trail blog of the Washington Post reports: The FEC sent a letter to Sen. John McCain's campaign treasurer Sept. 30 demanding the candidate turn over more information about "contributions that appear to exceed the limits."

The letter is accompanied by a nine-page list showing scores of overages from McCain's August campaign finance report, including nearly $13,000 from Texas rancher Ray R. Barrett Jr.; $9,200 from an Iraqi security consultant, H. Carter Andress; and $5,000 from Joseph F. Davolio, an executive at a major national liquor, beer and wine distributor.

"Please inform the Commission of your corrective action immediately in writing and provide photocopies of any refund checks and/or letters reattributing or redesignating the contributions in question," the letter from the FEC's senior campaign finance analyst, Leah S. Palmer, says. "The acceptance of excessive contributions is a serious problem." -- FEC Queries McCain Campaign on 'Excessive Contributions' | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

GOP to file FEC complaint over donations

The New York Times reports: The Republican National Committee plans to file a complaint on Monday against Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign raising questions about the legitimacy of its small contributions and donations from overseas.

Republican officials are demanding the Federal Election Commission conduct a full audit of the Obama campaign’s donations, although it appears that no action would be taken, even if the commission found merit in the complaint, until after the November election.

The Obama campaign has been powered in large part by small-dollar contributions, with donations of $200 or less accounting for more than $220 million of the record-breaking $450 million it has collected so far.

But such donations do not have to be itemized in reporting to the election commission unless the donor’s total contributions exceed $200. The lack of information on such donors has been highlighted by watchdog groups as potentially troublesome. The groups have also praised the campaign of Senator John McCain for offering on its Web site a tool that allows a search of all of its donors, including those who gave less than $200. -- G.O.P. to File Complaint Over Donations

August 15, 2008

AFL-CIO files FEC complaint against Wal-Mart

A New York Times report begins: The A.F.L.-C.I.O and three other pro-labor groups will urge the Federal Election Commission on Thursday to rule that Wal-Mart acted illegally by warning many store managers and department heads that a Democratic victory in November would hurt the company by helping workers unionize.

The pro-labor groups plan to file a complaint with the commission on Thursday asserting that Wal-Mart warned so vigorously that the Democrats would enact pro-union legislation that the company had engaged in illegal express advocacy.

The pro-labor organizations — including the Change to Win Federation, American Rights at Work and WakeUpWalMart.com — argue that federal regulations make it legal for companies to engage in such political advocacy with high-level managers, but not with low-level managers like Wal-Mart’s department heads, who are often hourly employees. ...

In their complaint, the four groups cite an article in The Wall Street Journal, which said that Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, was mobilizing its store managers and department heads around the country to warn that if the Democrats win, they are likely to enact a law that makes it easier for workers to unionize Wal-Mart and other companies. -- Groups to File Complaint Against Wal-Mart

Jurist Paper Chase links to a copy of the complaint.

July 30, 2008

Arizona: GOP accuses Dem candidate of reporting contributions too early

The Arizona Republic reports: The Arizona Republican Party has accused Democrat Bob Lord of violating fundraising laws in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission.

The complaint was filed last week and became public earlier this week.

Lord, an attorney, is challenging seven-term Congressman John Shadegg in Congressional District 3. Lord has raised more than $1 million, far more than any previous Shadegg opponent.

Randy Pullen, chairman of the Arizona Republicans, said in a letter to the commission that Lord apparently counted donations received after the June 30 reporting deadline as part of the funds raised by the deadline. Pullen said that violates the law. -- The rules of reporting funds at issue in Shadegg-Lord race

June 24, 2008

Democratic National Committee sues FEC over McCain's withdrawal from public financing

From a DNC press release: The Democratic National Committee today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in D.C. to compel the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate John McCain's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the FEC's matching funds program despite using the program to financially benefit his campaign - just one of many McCain campaign improprieties. To view a copy of the DNC's lawsuit, please visit: http://www.democrats.org/page/-/pdf/DNCFECMcCain_062408.pdf.

John McCain talks about setting a new standard for "transparency and accountability" yet when it comes to his campaign, he doesn't seem to think the rules apply to him. First, he used taxpayer dollars to secure a loan to keep his campaign afloat in the primary, a move that's clearly against the law. Then the Wall Street Journal reported that McCain refused to pay for his campaign's use of a corporate jet - again against the law - and last week, his trip to Canada came under question for possible violations of federal law.

June 18, 2008

Environmental group "goofed" and violated electioneering rules

The New York Sun reports: An environmental group has filed federal disclosure reports on almost $710,000 worth of advertisements lobbying lawmakers in advance of a key vote on climate change legislation. However, the Environmental Defense Action Fund is not disclosing who donated the money for the television spots.

The belated reports arrived at the Federal Election Commission three days after an article in The New York Sun noted the group's legal obligation to file because some of the ads mentioned the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, within 30 days of a primary she faced on June 3. Other ads in what the group described as a $4 million campaign to promote a so-called cap-and-trade bill ran in advance of primary elections for Senator Dole in North Carolina and Senator Pryor in Arkansas, according to the federal filings, which are supposed to be filed within 24 hours of airing a reportable ad.

"We just goofed," a spokesman for the environmental group, Keith Gaby, said. "We've never in my experience done TV ads with members' names in them, so we're just not familiar with the territory. We found out from your question that we had to do it."

The explanation did not mollify an official at the Club for Growth, an antitax group that mounted a smaller $250,000 TV campaign against the climate change measure. -- Group Files Climate Change Ad Disclosures After Delay - June 18, 2008 - The New York Sun

June 17, 2008

DNC will file FEC complaint against McCain, again

CNNPolitics.com reports: The Democratic National Committee said Tuesday it plans to file a lawsuit next week to try to force a federal investigation over whether John McCain’s withdrawal from the public financing system violated the law – the latest move in an effort that dates back to February, when the Arizona senator effectively clinched the Republican presidential nomination.

Democrats say McCain’s decision to use the promise of federal matching funds as collateral to keep his financially struggling campaign afloat late last year prevents him from withdrawing from the system – and its strict spending requirements – now that he is on sounder financial footing. --

June 9, 2008

Campaign Money Watch files FEC complaint about McCain campaign

AP reports: A group that supports public financing of campaigns filed a federal complaint against John McCain s presidential campaign Monday, calling for an investigation into two financial transactions involving two top McCain aides.

The Federal Election Commission complaint by Campaign Money Watch, a group that has received financing from Democratic leaning donors, questions payments from former finance chair Tom Loeffler to campaign finance director Susan Nelson. It also questions the reduction of a debt to a Web services firm co-owned by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis.

A campaign manager renegotiating a debt with a company he partly owns raises serious conflict of interest questions, said David Donnelly, the director of Campaign Money Watch.

Donnelly also questioned whether Loeffler s payments to Nelson amounted to an illegal subsidy to a campaign staffer. Loeffler is a lobbyist and former congressman and Nelson is a former associate of Loeffler s lobbying firm. The campaign has said the payments, first reported by Newsweek, were for legitimate work and were legal. -- Talking Points Memo | Group files complaint against McCain campaign

June 5, 2008

Michigan: Feiger was acquitted, but now faces the FEC

The Detroit News reports: Though acquitted of criminal campaign finance charges, Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger still faces possible civil prosecution by the Federal Elections Commission for reimbursing employees and others for donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards.

The commission, which normally will not say whether it is conducting an investigation, confirmed in an April 9, 2007, court filing in a federal civil case that it had opened an inquiry into Fieger in 2006.

Federal officials said this week that civil investigation has been on hold pending the resolution of criminal charges brought against Fieger in 2007. -- Fieger may face civil charges from FEC

April 26, 2008

Virginia: VA GOP files FEC complaint against Dems' anti-McCain ad

AP reports: Virginia Republican Party chairman John Hager filed a complaint Friday over a Democratic National Committee ad attacking John McCain.

Hager alleged in an affidavit to the Federal Election Commission that the DNC coordinated the ad with the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. That would violate federal election law. -- Va. GOP complaint targets DNC ad -- dailypress.com

Note: If anyone has the complaint, please email it or a link to me.

April 24, 2008

Judicial Watch files FEC complaint against McCain

From a press release: Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it filed a formal complaint, dated April 22, 2008, with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) related to a fundraising luncheon held at London's Spencer House to benefit Senator John McCain's presidential campaign. The venue for the event was apparently donated to the campaign by foreign nationals, in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

"Recent news reports suggest that Sen. John McCain and John McCain for President may have accepted an in-kind contribution from foreign nationals Lord Rothschild OM GBE and the Hon. Nathaniel Rothschild of Great Britain in contravention of federal election laws," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton wrote in a complaint letter dated April 22, 2008. "On behalf of Judicial Watch and its supporters, I hereby request that the FEC investigate the matter." -- Judicial Watch Calls on FEC to Investigate McCain Presidential Fundraising Luncheon Held in London: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

April 15, 2008

Judicial Watch files FEC complaint against Clinton over Elton John concert

Judicial Watch has requested that the FEC investigate the Elton John concert-fundraiser for the Clinton Campaign. The problem is that Elton John is not an American citizen. -- Judicial Watch complaint

April 14, 2008

DNC will sue FEC today over McCain (court docs linked)

Update: The suit has been filed and the complaint is available here.

UPI reports: The Democratic National Committee wants to get its dispute with John McCain s campaign on public financing into the U.S. courts, party officials said.

The committee plans to file suit Monday, asking the U.S. District Court in Washington to order the Federal Election Commission to investigate McCain s decision to reject public financing for the primary, The New York Times reported.

The six-member commission has four vacancies and is unable to take any action because it cannot meet with a quorum. The Democratic majority in Congress has objected to some of President George W. Bush s reappointments. -- Democrats want to sue McCain over loan - UPI.com

April 10, 2008

Iowa: charge that Fallon's business is financing his campaign

The Courier reports: A state senator has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, arguing congressional candidate Ed Fallon is using his for-profit business to assist his bid for office.

State Sen. Dick Dearden, the Des Moines Democrat who is making the complaint, is backing U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, who is facing Fallon in the 3rd District Democratic primary. ...

During Fallon s time as a state legislator and his run for governor in 2006, he was a strong advocate for reducing the influence of money in politics.

But Dearden said Fallon s business, I m for Iowa, raises and spends money without having to disclose it.

Dearden also says the group s Web site is being used to further Fallon s campaign. -- Complaint filed against congressional candidate

April 9, 2008

Colorado: CREW files complaint against U.S. Term Limits for pro-Schaffer ad

The Rocky Mountain News reports: A Washington, D.C.-based group has filed an elections complaint over an ad where school children repeatedly thank U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer for his commitment to charter schools.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says the ad violated election laws in two ways.

The spot was paid for by U.S. Term Limits, a Virginia group, to thank Schaffer for keeping his pledge to serve only three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Schaffer, a Fort Collins Republican, left office in 2002. He faces U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, in the U.S. Senate race.

CREW noted that a written disclaimer at the end of the ad says U.S. Term Limits does not endorse candidates for public office. But when the group posted the ad on YouTube.com, it labeled the spot Bob Schaffer for Senate video. -- Pro-Schaffer ad draws complaint : Elections : The Rocky Mountain News

March 14, 2008

Alabama: congressional candidate spent state campaign funds on federal election

AP reports: Alabama state Sen. Harri Anne Smith spent nearly $20,000 from her state campaign account last year on polling and political consulting in her bid for federal office to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Terry Everett, a violation of federal election rules.

Smith, a Republican from Slocomb, said she was not aware of laws prohibiting the mingling of state campaign funds in federal elections and that she immediately contacted the Federal Election Commission to fix the error once she discovered it.

She filed new finance reports with the state and the FEC last month to properly account for the spending.

"We found the mistake and we did everything in our power to correct it," she said in an interview. "The rules are there for people who are intentionally trying to circumvent the law, and that was never our intent. It was just a procedural mistake." -- AP NewsBreak: Ala. state senator mingled state, federal funds - NewsFlash - al.com

February 29, 2008

Illinois: Dems file FEC complaint against Oberweis for filing to iile Millionaire's Amendment report

The Daily Herald reports: Accusing Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis of attempting to flout campaign finance law, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

Oberweis failed to file a specific FEC form and notify both his Democratic opponent, Bill Foster, and Democratic party leaders within 24 hours of loaning his campaign more than $350,000 -- a requirement under the so-called Millionaire s Amendment in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Oberweis and Foster are running in the March 8 special election to replace retired U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert in the 14th Congressional District.

Triggering the Millionaire s Amendment turns the race into a virtual financial free-for-all by increasing individual contributors limits from $2,300 to $6,900 and allowing the state and national party committees to dump an unlimited amount of money into their candidate s campaign coffers.

Oberweis campaign officials claim the errors were unintentional. In two separate transactions since the Feb. 5 primary election, Oberweis loaned his campaign $640,000; $300,000 was allocated toward the special election and $340,000 toward the general election, campaign spokesman Bill Pascoe said. -- Daily Herald | Filing flap in the 14th Congressional District race

February 25, 2008

DNC v. McCain, the complaint and the bank's letter

Reuters reports: The Democratic Party asked the U.S. government on Monday to investigate whether Republican presidential candidate John McCain has violated campaign-finance laws by exceeding spending limits he agreed to last year.

In a letter to the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic National Committee said McCain has probably surpassed the roughly $50 million limit he agreed to observe when he applied for public funding last year.

McCain, the front-runner for the Republican nomination to contest November s presidential election should not be allowed to withdraw from the public-funding system now that he no longer needs it, the DNC argued. -- Democrats criticize McCain over campaign finance - washingtonpost.com

AP reports: Lawyers for the bank that provided a crucial $4 million line of credit to John McCain's campaign late last year said Monday that the loan agreement was carefully drafted to give McCain the opportunity to withdraw from public financing during the primary elections.

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the outside counsel for Fidelity & Trust Bank said the loan terms specifically excluded from the collateral any potential share of public matching funds the Arizona senator was entitled to receive.

The letter, from lawyers Matthew S. Bergman and Scott E. Thomas to McCain lawyer Trevor Potter, supports McCain's stance against claims that his withdrawal from public financing is in jeopardy. -- Bank explains terms of McCain loan

Documents to download:
DNC's complaint
Exhibits 1-3
Exhibit 4
Exhibit 5
Exhibits 6-7

Note: If anyone has the bank's letter to McCain's lawyer, please email it to me.

February 24, 2008

DNC to file FEC complaint against John McCain

The DNC will file a complaint with the FEC on Monday against John McCain for his alleged violations of the campaign finance law.

Former Gov. Howard Dean, chair of the DNC, and Joe Sandler, DNC general counsel, held a press conference Sunday afternoon to announce the complaint. Gov. Dean said that McCain has already benefited from the matching funds program in 2 ways:

First, he used his future receipt of federal matching funds as collateral for a bank loan, but now wishes to withdraw from the matching funds program.

Second, a candidate who has been certified for matching funds gets free ballot access while other candidates must pay.

If McCain is properly considered part of the matching program, then he is likely to be exceeding the spending limits. [The limit for total primary spending is $42.05 million, according to the FEC.]

Dean said, "John McCain has made a career of pretending to be a reformer, but his reforms apply to everyone except him."

February 22, 2008

McCain runs into a FEC roadblock caused by the lack of 4 commissioners

The New York Times reports: A bank loan that Senator John McCain took out late in 2007 to keep his presidential campaign afloat is complicating his desire to withdraw from public financing for his primary effort.

The Federal Election Commission, in a letter it released on Thursday, said Mr. McCain could not withdraw from public financing until he had answered questions about a $4 million line of credit for borrowing that was secured, in part, in December by the promise of federal matching money.

Mr. McCain sent a letter to the commission on Feb. 7 saying he had decided to decline the matching money for his primary campaign. His request for public money, in which the government matches campaign contributions, was made last year as the campaign was running out of cash.

After his fortunes began to rise from his victory New Hampshire and campaign gifts increased, however, Mr. McCain decided against taking the public money. Taking it would have limited his spending between now and the Republican convention in September to $40 million. -- McCain Loan Complicates Financing of Campaign - New York Times

January 30, 2008

Maryland: Wynn alleges Edwards coordinating her campaign with other groups

The Washington Post reports: The campaign of U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.) filed a complaint yesterday with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that his leading primary opponent has illegally coordinated her campaign efforts with independent organizations that support her -- charges that she immediately rejected as last-minute electioneering by an embattled incumbent.

In unusually strong language, Wynn accuses Prince George's County lawyer Donna F. Edwards of colluding with a small network of people to affect the outcome of the Feb. 12 election, a closely fought match in Maryland's 4th Congressional District that has received national attention. ...

Edwards, who came within three percentage points of defeating the eight-term incumbent in 2006, has the support of progressive organizations that have targeted Wynn because they think he too often votes with Republicans and accepts contributions from corporate interests. ...

Wynn's complaint, filed by campaign manager Lori Sherwood, contains 34 points and 126 pages of documentation. Among his allegations are that Edwards is being supported by two groups on whose board of directors she has served. -- Wynn Files Campaign Complaint - washingtonpost.com

January 21, 2008

Arizona: Dems accuse Shadegg of violating campaign finance laws

The Arizona Republic reports: The Arizona Democratic Party is accusing Republican U.S. Rep. John Shadegg of using his political-action committee to skirt laws that limit the amount of money donors can give a candidate.

Democrats say they have drafted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, but Shadegg maintains nothing was done improperly and doubts whether the FEC will take action.

At issue is money that elections records show was transferred from Shadegg's political-action committee into his election campaign.

Two Valley businessmen who made the maximum allowable individual donations to Shadegg's campaign in 2007 also wrote additional $5,000 checks to Shadegg's PAC, Leadership for America's Future. Eleven days later, on June 26, the PAC wrote two identical $5,000 checks to Shadegg. -- Democrats say Shadegg violated law

November 19, 2007

Kos himself quotes on Daily Kos from a press release: The Washington State Democratic Party today filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission regarding serious violations of election law by Congressman Dave Reichert.

On August 27, 2007, President Bush held a $1,000 a head fundraiser in Bellevue on behalf of Congressman Reichert, the proceeds of which were supposed to be placed into a special joint account that would then be divided between the Reichert campaign and the Washington State Republican Party. Instead, much of the money appears to have been deposited directly in Congressman Reichert’s campaign account, a serious violation of FEC rules. The Reichert campaign has also failed to refund at least one contribution in excess of the $4,600 campaign contribution limit for individual donors. -- WA-08: The Reichert/Bush fundraising disaster

FEC fines Media Fund $580,000

AP reports: A union-financed advocacy group that played a major role in the 2004 elections has agreed to pay a $580,000 fine after the Federal Election Commission concluded it illegally ran advertising against President Bush and in favor of Democrat John Kerry.

In an agreement announced Monday, the FEC said the now inactive Media Fund spent $53.4 million during the contest on television, radio and newspaper ads and direct mail that made reference to Bush or Kerry. The FEC said the fund violated campaign finance laws because it accepted unlimited donations from labor unions and expressly advocated the defeat or victory of a political candidate.

The Media Fund is the latest in a string of so-called 527 organizations the FEC has fined for their activities during the 2004 presidential campaign. They include groups on both sides of the election, including the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth as well as the liberal MoveOn.org.

Lawyers for these groups have argued that at the time of the campaign they believed they were acting within the law. But the FEC has concluded that 527 organizations that stated their desire to influence the presidential election through fundraising, public statements or advertisements violated the law. Such activity, the FEC has said, could only be conducted by political committees registered with the FEC that abide by contribution limits and public disclosure requirements. -- FEC fines group allied with Democrats - Yahoo! News

April 11, 2007

Public Citizen asks IRS and FEC to bring insecuity to Americans for Job Security

From a Public Citizen press release:
Public Citizen today filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that the nonprofit group Americans for Job Security (AJS) has violated both the terms of its tax status and federal election law. The complaints, which were also sent to congressional committee leadership as part of a request for an investigation into the issue, ask the IRS to revoke the group’s tax status and the FEC to fine the group for election law violations.

Americans for Job Security is registered under Section 501(c)(6) of the tax code, the category reserved for business leagues and trade associations. Groups that are registered under this section are prohibited from engaging in efforts to influence elections as their primary purpose. But AJS, which maintains no Web site and appears to have only one paid employee, spends millions of dollars on advertisements to influence elections without appearing to engage in any other substantive efforts, according to the complaint. While many groups registered under 501(c) of the tax code participate in some level of electioneering activity and others may have violated the law, Public Citizen has identified AJS as one of the most egregious offenders. In response, Public Citizen is asking that the IRS revoke AJS’s 501(c) status, collect back taxes for its undeclared electioneering activities and require it to pay penalties for violating its tax-exempt status.

The same page has a link to the complaint.

March 23, 2007

FEC splits over whether Bush '04 campaign overspent

The Washington Post reports: The three Democrats on the Federal Election Commission revealed yesterday that they strongly believe President Bush exceeded legal spending limits during the 2004 presidential contest and that his campaign owes the government $40 million.

Their concerns spilled out during a vote to approve an audit of the Bush campaign's finances, which is conducted to make sure the campaign adhered to spending rules after accepting $74.6 million in public money for the 2004 general election. ...

The dispute centered on the use of what the commissioners called "hybrid" ads, which were intended to promote both the president and Republican members of Congress. The Bush campaign argued that it should not bear the full cost of these ads, so it split the tab with the Republican Party.

As a result, only half of the cost would count toward spending limits imposed on the campaign when it agreed to take public funds. -- FEC Democrats Say Bush Violated Limits - washingtonpost.com

March 18, 2007

Nevada: FEC dismisses complaint against Reid

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports: The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada for using $3,300 of his campaign funds to give Christmas bonuses to workers at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington.

Reid lives in a condominium at the hotel.

Describing the complaint "a low rated matter" and the amount of money as insignificant, FEC Deputy General Counsel James Kahl urged the commission to "exercise its prosecutorial discretion and dismiss the matter."

Kahl made his recommendation on Feb. 2 and the FEC dismissed the complaint on Feb. 21, according to documents released by Reid's office.

The FEC notified the attorney of Reid's committee about its decision on March 7. -- reviewjournal.com -- News - Officials dismiss Reid charge

February 28, 2007

FEC and Progress for America Voter Fund reach a $750,000 settlement

The FEC announces: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced today that it has reached a settlement with the Progress for America Voter Fund (PFA-VF), a 527 organization accused of violating Federal campaign finance laws during the 2004 Presidential election. PFA-VF agreed to pay $750,000 to settle charges that it failed to register and file disclosure reports as a Federal political committee and accepted contributions in violation of Federal limits and source prohibitions. This represents the third largest civil penalty in the Commission’s thirty-two year history. The Commission unanimously approved the conciliation agreement.

“This settlement demonstrates once again that the Commission is serious about enforcing the campaign finance law,” said FEC Chairman Robert Lenhard. “It should now be clear to organizations that want to be active in the 2008 cycle that the activities we saw in this case are prohibited under the law.”

PFA-VF raised $44.9 million in contributions in the months preceding the 2004 General Election. Over $41 million of those funds consisted of excessive contributions from individuals, while over $2 million came from sources prohibited from making contributions under the Act. PFA-VF funded over $31.1 million in communications related to the 2004 General Election, including television and radio advertisements, direct mailings, email communications, and Internet banner ads. Certain communications expressly advocated either the election of President George W. Bush or the defeat of Senator John Kerry, constituting expenditures under the Act. -- 0228MUR5487

Thanks to Brett Kappel for sending me the link to this.

February 22, 2007

Connecticut: FEC sends inquiries to Lieberman and Lamont

The Hartford Courant reports: The Federal Election Commission is questioning whether Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman and Democratic challenger Ned Lamont fully disclosed all their contributions during their U.S. Senate campaigns.

The FEC requests, contained in letters to each campaign, are considered routine. ...

The commission, though, wanted to know about two kinds of details it found lacking in his reports.

In one case, it found "one or more contributions that appear to exceed the limits." The letter advised the senator that any excess needed to be refunded or "redesignated" for another election.

Generally, no individual can give more than $2,100 per candidate per election during the 2006 cycle. -- courant.com | Lieberman, Lamont Questioned On Disclosure Of Contributions

February 18, 2007

Oklahoma: CREW files FEC complaint against Rep. Coburn

The Tulsa World reports: A private watchdog group said Friday it has filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the 2004 campaign of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., citing "violations" outlined in a previous FEC audit.

Tim Mooney, senior counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the violations "egregious" and expressed hope the FEC would fine Coburn's campaign.

By filing an official complaint, Mooney said his group would be forcing the hand of the FEC, which already has the authority to launch its own investigation. ...

Released in late January, the FEC audit found that Coburn's campaign accepted contributions that exceeded the legal limit, did not include information on certain contributors as required by law and failed to file proper paperwork on donations totaling $349,100. -- tulsaworld.com: News

February 2, 2007

FEC files its 'explanation and justification' in court

The Washington Post reports: The Federal Election Commission said yesterday that it will police "527" groups, political organizations that largely operated outside the new campaign finance limits during the 2004 presidential election, by looking at how the groups word their appeals for contributions, how they describe themselves, and how they spend their money.

If the groups make clear that they are advocating for or against a specific candidate, the FEC would regulate them. ...

The FEC filed the 44-page explanation of its approach in U.S. District Court yesterday in response to a lawsuit challenging the agency's effectiveness in regulating the independent groups.

Some of the groups, which are called 527s because of their designation in the tax code, raised and spent large sums of money to pay for nuanced political ads that appeared to be intended to skirt the new federal rules. -- FEC to Police '527' Groups' Campaign Activities - washingtonpost.com

December 22, 2006

Leadership Forum dodges an FEC fine

The FEC announces: The complaint alleged that the Leadership Forum was established to help specific Republican House candidates in the 2004 elections and it had become a political committee by accepting contributions and making expenditures for the purpose of influencing specific federal elections. The Commission's investigation found no evidence that The Leadership Forum received contributions or made expenditures that would require registration as a political committee. -- FEC Completes Action on Two Enforcement Cases

Comment: Brett Kappel emailed me about this with the tag line, "527s not dead yet." Somebody who has more time than I do to parse this stuff may be able to explain to me and you why the Leadership Forum did not get fined, but the Swift Boaters and MoveOn.org Voter Fund did.

Illinois: Hynes' campaign fined for raising money beyond limits

The Chicago Tribune reports: Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes' ill-fated 2004 U.S. Senate campaign has agreed to pay $76,500 in civil fines to settle Federal Election Commission complaints for violations involving campaign contributions and reporting, FEC officials said Tuesday.

The violations include accepting campaign contributions in excess of what was allowed by election law to retire campaign debt, failure to adequately report the campaign's debt and failing to get rid of contributions that the FEC determined were illegal, agency officials said.

Hynes, who won election to a third term as comptroller last month, finished second to Barack Obama in the March 2004 Democratic U.S. Senate primary. Candidates in the primary were allowed to raise up to $12,000 from individual donors--six times the normal limit--under recent federal campaign finance law changes aimed at making it easier to compete with wealthy self-funded candidates. ...

The FEC said that even after the primary contest had ended, Hynes continued to raise money at the higher level to retire his campaign debt, even though the higher limits ended once he was no longer a candidate. -- Hynes' Senate campaign will pay FEC to settle complaints | Chicago Tribune

Missouri: FEC fines group for supporting Cleaver's campaign without registering

The Kansas City Star reports: The Federal Election Commission on Wednesday fined Freedom Inc., the Kansas City political club, $45,000 for its involvement in Emanuel Cleaver’s 2004 race for Congress.

The FEC said Freedom was registered as a state political committee but had not registered to engage in federal races, such as Cleaver’s campaign for the 5th District congressional seat. Cleaver won the election. ...

The commission said Freedom spent more than $45,000 on advertising, yard signs and voter guides that expressly advocated Cleaver’s election. -- Kansas City Star | 12/21/2006 | Freedom Inc. fined for Cleaver campaign

December 13, 2006

FEC reaches deal with three 527 groups on fines for campaigning without registering

AP reports: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org Voter Fund, two outside groups that played key roles in the 2004 presidential election, reached an agreement with the Federal Election Commission to pay nearly $450,000 for various violations.

The two groups, along with the League of Conservation Voters, settled charges that they failed "to register and file disclosure reports as federal political committees and accepted contributions in violation of federal limits and source prohibitions," the FEC said in a statement Wednesday.

The commission approved the three settlements on a vote of 6-0. ...

The FEC concluded that the three 527 organizations violated campaign finance laws because they expressly stated their desire to influence the presidential election in their fundraising, their public statements or their advertisements. Such activity, the FEC said, could only be conducted by political committee registered with the FEC that abide by contribution limits and public disclosure requirements. -- BostonHerald.com - National Politics: Political groups to pay campaign fines

Rick Hasen has an analysis of the agreements here. Bob Bauer had this short analysis (with more to come later on the blog or in court, I expect).

December 11, 2006

Swift Boat Veterans, Americans Coming Together, and others facing FEC fines

Raw Story reports: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and other so-called '527' nonpartisan groups are likely to soon face significant fines from the Federal Election Commission, according to a story in today's edition of Roll Call.

America Coming Together, a more Democrat-leaning group, and others were cited as facing fines after two years of FEC scrutiny, in an article written by Matthew Murray. During the 2004 presidential election, complaints had been filed against the groups for violating campaign finance laws. Texans for Truth, Progress for America Voter Fund, Leadership Forum, the Media Fund, the Joint Victory Campaign, Economic Freedom Fund and Majority Action were other groups confirmed to be likely targets of fines for their conduct in 2004.

One observer of the process commented to Roll Call that fines were unlikely unless major infractions were alleged to have occurred, as the FEC's current philosophy emphasizes the pursuit of "big fish." -- The Raw Story | Swift Boat Vets, related groups to face big fines

December 6, 2006

Alabama: Turnham fined for excessive contributions to 2002 campaign

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission has fined Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham $50,000 for fundraising violations stemming from his 2002 congressional campaign.

The commission found that Turnham's father, Pete Turnham, who was the candidate's treasurer, made illegal contributions or loan guarantees to the campaign totaling $166,502. At the time, the law capped individual's contributions at $1,000 per election. -- Ala. Democratic party chairman fined over campaign contributions - NBC 15 Online

November 30, 2006

Florida; FEC drops probe of Martinez ads

The Orlando Sentinel reports: The Federal Election Commission has dropped a long-standing investigation of Sen. Mel Martinez after finding no evidence that the Florida Republican illegally coordinated 2004 political ads with President Bush.

The decision ends a two-year inquiry into allegations that Martinez helped Bush's re-election bid by using the same advertising firm to synchronize TV and radio commercials -- a violation of election law.

But the FEC ruled the commercials were not part of a coordinated campaign to help both candidates. It also found the firm, Washington-based Stevens & Schriefer Group, adequately separated the accounts to prevent collusion.

Advertising for the two campaigns had "insufficient similarity to raise even an inference of coordination," according to agency records. The Martinez campaign was told of the ruling in mid-October; the full case file became public record this month. -- Feds drop probe of Martinez ads - Orlando Sentinel : State News Feds drop probe of Martinez ads - Orlando Sentinel : State News

November 23, 2006

Michigan: Schwarz files FEC complaint over Club for Growth fundraising for Walberg's campaign

The Jackson Citizen-Patriot reports: U.S. Rep.-elect Tim Walberg illegally took more than $500,000 in his bid for Congress, a new Federal Election Commission complaint alleges.

The 16-page document and 140-page donor spreadsheet obtained by the Citizen Patriot also calls for an injunction against Club for Growth, a Washington-based lobby that helped net more than $1.1 million for Walberg, R-Tipton.

U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, whose campaign filed the grievance last week, met with FEC Commissioner Michael Toner in August. The FEC is suing Club for Growth for alleged fundraising violations. -- Walberg complaint filed

October 27, 2006

Florida: FEC rejects complaint against GOP Governors Ass'n's contribution to Florida GOP

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: The Florida Elections Commission won't investigate a charge by Leon County Democrats that the Republican Governors Association gave an illegal $1 million contribution to the Florida Republican Party earmarked for its gubernatorial nominee, Attorney General Charlie Crist.

FEC attorneys ruled that the complaints, filed by the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee last month, were ''legally insufficient.'' ...

Democrats filed the complaints when Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney visited Tallahassee last month. At a press conference, Romney pledged $1 million and said he wanted to help Crist keep the governor's mansion in Republican control.

But FEC investigators found the complaints, based only on news accounts of the press conference, baseless. -- Tallahassee Democrat - www.tallahassee.com - Tallahassee, FL.

October 23, 2006

Connecticut: $387,000 in "petty cash"

AP reports: Ned Lamont's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, accusing Sen. Joe Lieberman of failing to account for $387,000 in petty cash his campaign spent days before the Democratic primary. The Lieberman campaign has denied any wrongdoing.

"The public has a right to know how nearly $400,000 in cash was spread around the streets of Connecticut," said Lamont campaign co-chairman George Jepsen at a news conference.

Records must be kept of petty cash expenditures, Jepsen said.

Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun said Sunday, when the allegations first surfaced, that the cash was paid to field coordinators who then distributed money to workers who were canvassing. The payments to workers, many of them students, ranged from $50 to $100 per day, Sun added. -- Lieberman challenger complains to FEC - Yahoo! News

September 19, 2006

Hawai'i: call for FEC investigation of automated calls

The Honolulu Advertiser reports: Two Honolulu attorneys will ask the Federal Election Commission today to investigate whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce violated election law by making automated telephone calls steering absentee voters toward U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the Democratic primary for Senate.

The chamber's calls describe Case as supporting tax cuts that help Hawai'i families and expanding small-business healthcare plans. The calls direct voters to a chamber Web site that favorably compares the congressman to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka on jobs, the economy and protecting small businesses.

The chamber has endorsed Case over Akaka in Saturday's primary.

Corporations such as the chamber are allowed to conduct unlimited issue advocacy that describes public policy or compares candidates on issues. But corporations are prohibited from using corporate money or express advocacy that promotes the election or defeat of candidates. -- FEC to investigate calls for Case - The Honolulu Advertiser

September 7, 2006

Colorado: FEC clears gift-offering candidate

The Greeley Tribune reports: The Federal Election Commission recently cleared Colorado Democratic congressional hopeful Angie Paccione of charges that she improperly offered potential campaign donors gifts -- including trips to Washington for her swearing-in ceremony. ...

Republicans complained to the FEC that the Paccione campaign sent an illegal e-mail in February offering trips, dinners and other prizes in exchange for donations of $5,000 or more. Such an offer is illegal, the complaint contended.

The FEC dismissed the matter, saying Paccione took immediate action to retract the offer. According to a statement from the FEC, Paccione and her campaign had not authorized the e-mail messages. She also sent an e-mail correcting the situation less than four hours after learning about it. -- The Tribune - News

July 21, 2006

ARMPAC pays fine to FEC and shuts down

AP reports: The fundraising organization that helped vault former Rep. Tom DeLay to GOP leadership and distributed election money to numerous fellow Republicans has been fined for campaign finance violations and is shutting down.

Under an agreement with the Federal Election Commission, Americans for a Republican Majority's political action committee agreed to pay a $115,000 fine and close. The agreement, reached July 7, was made public late Wednesday.

The agreement resulted from an audit by the FEC of the committee's records for Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2002. The audit found DeLay's committee had not properly reported contributions, disbursements and cash on hand.

It also found the committee failed to properly report outstanding debts and obligations and did not follow federal rules for paying for shared federal and nonfederal activities. -- PAC Tied to DeLay Fined, Shutting Down

April 18, 2006

Freddie Mac pays record fine to FEC for illegal campaign contributions

AP reports: The home loan giant Freddie Mac has agreed to pay a record $3.8 million fine to settle allegations it made illegal campaign contributions.

The fine announced Tuesday is by far the biggest ever levied by the Federal Election Commission. Because the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, widely known as Freddie Mac, agreed to pay the fine and stop breaking the law, the FEC said it would not take further action against corporate officials. ...

Freddie Mac was accused of illegally using corporate resources between 2000 and 2003 for 85 fundraisers that collected about $1.7 million for federal candidates. Much of the fundraising benefited members of the House Financial Services Committee, a panel whose decisions can affect Freddie Mac.

The fundraisers were organized by then-Freddie Mac lobbyists Robert Mitchell Delk and Clark Camper, who described them to the corporation's board of directors as "political risk management," the FEC said. -- Freddie Mac to pay to settle allegations - Boston.com

December 16, 2005

Sharpton settles with FEC

AP reports: Former presidential candidate Al Sharpton agreed to repay $100,000 _ plus interest _ in taxpayer money he received as part of his failed 2004 bid, under a deal announced Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Sharpton, a left-wing activist minister whose effort to win the Democratic nomination racked up more debt than votes, has been at odds with the FEC for more than a year over his personal loans to his campaign.

Sharpton insisted the deal proves his critics wrong, particularly those who had claimed he was misusing campaign funds to stay at pricey hotels. ...

Sharpton's former campaign manager, Charles Halloran, said the campaign decided it would be too expensive to continue fighting. -- Newsday.com: Al Sharpton agrees to pay $100,000 to FEC

December 7, 2005

Pennsylvania: Casey campaign files FEC complaint against pro-Santorum group

AP reports: Bob Casey Jr. filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, alleging a third-party group that has run ads in support of Sen. Rick Santorum violated federal election laws.

Casey - Pennsylvania's treasurer and Santorum's likely Democratic challenger in the 2006 election - alleges the group violated election law by not revealing the identity of its donors.

The group, Americans for Job Security, "conspired to make illegal corporate expenditures in connection with a federal election, failed to register and report as a political committee with the Federal Election Commission, and failed to comply with disclaimer requirements," according to the complaint filed by Casey's campaign.

Michael Dubke, president of the Virginia-based group, denied any wrongdoing. He said his group is not a political committee so it is not required to make such disclosures.

Americans for Job Security is registered under 501(c) of the federal tax code, a classification that allows groups to engage in political activity without revealing contributors as long as that is not their main activity. It has run about $1 million in ads in recent weeks in Pennsylvania television markets in support of Santorum and his Social Security plan. -- AP Wire | 12/07/2005 | Casey campaign files complaint over Santorum ads

November 16, 2005

Complaint filed with FEC against Diddy Combs

AP reports: A conservative organization has filed a complaint against Sean "Diddy" Combs, contending the hip-hop mogul violated election law in his 2004 "Vote or Die" campaign by promoting Democrat John Kerry and opposing President Bush.

The National Legal and Policy Center, which filed the complaint, said Tuesday that the Federal Election Commission informed the group in a letter that it would review the complaint. ...

In its complaint, the National Legal and Policy Center cited "Vote or Die" rallies sponsored by Citizen Change in which actor Leonardo DiCaprio urged the crowd to back Kerry. The conservative group said public record backs its claim that Combs and Citizen Change undertook a campaign to defeat Bush and elect the Democrat. -- newsobserver.com | Entertainment

September 23, 2005

FEC dismisses complaint claiming GOP and Nader collusion

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission dismissed complaints that Republican and conservative groups improperly worked with Ralph Nader to get him on presidential ballots last year in New Hampshire and two other states.

The commission said it found no reason to believe that any of the groups had violated the law as Nader sought to qualify as an independent presidential candidate in Oregon, Michigan and New Hampshire.

The consumer advocate was on the ballot in 34 states last year. But he was much less of a factor than in 2000, when Democrats say he siphoned votes from the party's nominee, Al Gore, in Florida, New Hampshire and elsewhere, giving the election to Republican George W. Bush. -- FEC dismisses complaints against Nader, GOP in 2004 ballot bid - Boston.com

September 21, 2005

Missouri: Dems pay $110k file to FEC

AP reports: The Missouri Democratic Party said Wednesday it has agreed to pay a $110,000 fine to settle allegations that it violated federal campaign finance laws during the 2000 election.

According to the settlement, which still needs approval from the Federal Election Commission, the party received $159,500 in prohibited donations from corporations and labor organizations and did not report the transfer of the money to the party's non-federal campaign accounts.

The agreement also states that the party failed to disclose debts of $620,000 and did not report the receipt and transfer to non-federal accounts of $176,125 in contributions that were above federal limits. ...

Last year, the Missouri Republican Party paid $128,000 to settle an FEC investigation into its financial reporting for the 2000 elections. That investigation also revolved around whether Republicans had appropriately reported money as federal contributions and expenditures, as opposed to state ones. -- AP Wire | 09/21/2005 | Missouri Democratic Party to pay $110,000 fine

September 20, 2005

FEC sues Club for Growth

The New York Times reports: The Federal Election Commission filed suit Monday against the Club for Growth, a well-funded Republican group, in an effort to force the organization to comply with limits on political contributions.

The suit is the first major enforcement case to involve a "527 committee," the independent political organizations that both Republicans and Democrats used to raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2004 races. Commission officials describe it as a test case that could have a major impact on how future elections are financed. ...

The suit alleges that the organization failed to properly register with the commission as a political committee, which would subject the group to contribution limits and other regulations, and that it raised millions in excessive contributions in recent years. Officials at the club said they had done nothing improper.

The case stems from a complaint filed against the group by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in connection with a television advertisement broadcast last year. The commission voted to file the suit Monday after talks between the two parties failed to reach an out-of-court agreement, according to the F.E.C. -- F.E.C. Sues Republican Group Over Political Contributions - New York Times

August 19, 2005

FEC fines Westar $40,000 for channeling money to DeLay

Thomas Edsall reports in the Washington Post: The Federal Election Commission yesterday fined Westar Energy Inc., two former corporate officers and the firm's lobbyist a total of $40,500 for their roles in channeling contributions to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and other Republicans.

Westar, a Kansas energy company, was fined $20,000; it admitted in a conciliation agreement that it violated campaign laws by engaging "on two separate occasions in the practice of facilitating corporate contributions to candidates for federal office." Corporations are barred from contributing to federal campaigns.

The agreements made public do not apply to DeLay and to some other corporate officials.

But DeLay was admonished in connection with the case for creating the "improper appearance" that Westar might receive special access or treatment when he attended the company's golf fundraiser in June 2002, according to the House ethics committee. -- Firm Fined for Channeling Donations to GOP

July 9, 2005

Illinois: Rep. Evans settles with the FEC, but is not pleased

AP reports: U.S. Rep. Lane Evans said Friday his campaign was the target of an abuse of power by the Federal Election Commission and Republicans trying to discourage minorities from voting. ...

Evans' campaign last month agreed to pay $185,000 in civil penalties to settle FEC charges that Evans set up a second campaign fund and improperly used it to help him win re-election.

Evans said his campaign may have made some mistakes, but there was nothing wrong with supporting voter registration and other party-building efforts by the separate "17th District Victory Fund." ...

The FEC said Evans created the Victory Fund in 1998 and helped it raise $500,000 through the 2000 election cycle. More than $200,000 of that came from unions, which is prohibited under federal election law. The Victory Fund spent at least $330,000 to help Evans' campaign, the FEC said. -- SJ-R.COM - Evans says FEC, GOP targeted his campaign

June 21, 2005

CREW files FEC complaint against defense contractor

AP report: A congressional watchdog group filed a complaint Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission against a defense contractor whose dealings with Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham are the subject of a federal investigation.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, called for the commission to investigate MZM Inc., MZM President Mitchell Wade and the company's political action committee over possible illegal campaign contributions.

A message left at MZM's main offices in Washington, D.C., wasn't returned.

CREW accused MZM and Wade of forcing company employees to donate money to the company PAC in 2002, citing a report Tuesday in The San Diego Union-Tribune. One employee described being told to write a check in the company's Washington headquarters while the unnamed recipient stood nearby, according to the newspaper report. -- AP Wire | 06/21/2005 | Watchdog group files FEC complaint against defense contractor

May 27, 2005

FEC fines Jesse Jackson, DNC, others $200,000

The Baltimore Sun reports: The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and the Democratic National Committee violated campaign finance law when Jackson used Rainbow/PUSH Coalition funds to travel the country in 2000 drumming up voter registration and staging get-out-the-vote rallies, according to a Federal Election Commission decision released yesterday.

Under an agreement with the FEC, Jackson, two of his organizations, Rainbow/PUSH and the Citizenship Education Fund, and the DNC were levied a $200,000 fine.

In accepting the fine, they also acknowledged violating federal election regulations by engaging in a campaign travel arrangement that saw Jackson's not-for-profit corporations illegally paying for political trips the DNC was supposed to fund. ...

"Due to an administrative delay by the Democratic Party in the payment of these expenses, Rainbow/PUSH was forced to decide between paying for the travel itself or canceling its voter registration efforts," the statement said. "Because of the vital importance of these efforts, Rainbow/PUSH chose to move ahead with the voter registration activities and pay for the travel." -- baltimoresun.com - Jackson, DNC draw campaign finance fine

March 12, 2005

FEC fines corporations for using assistants in fundraising

Forbes reports: It's an executive status symbol: an assistant who schleps your dry cleaning, buys your gifts and plans your parties. Just make sure they're not political fundraising parties.

That's the lesson from two little-noticed settlements last month with the Federal Election Commission. Harrah's Entertainment and Mirage Casino Resorts agreed to pay a combined $93,000 in fines because an executive at each had asked an assistant to help collect contributions and coordinate invitations and catering for political fundraisers aiding Republican senatorial hopeful William Gormley of New Jersey. The events raised a total of $65,000. Such activity, the FEC concluded, violates a regulation prohibiting the "use of corporate resources to facilitate contributions." -- Forbes.com: Get Coffee, Not Cash

Brett Kappel called this article to my attention. The corporations may have been lead astray by the Bush-Cheney '04 FAQ which had this:

Q: "Can I use my executive assistant to help with my fund-raising activities?"

A: "Any person can volunteer to help. Employees may volunteer a maximum of 1 (one) hour per week during working hours and an unlimited amount outside of the office." (see my earlier post)

Brett suggests the answer ought to be "Only if you pay your company in advance for the fair market value of the time your executive assistant spends assisting you in your fundraising activities." 11 C.F.R. 114.2(f)(2)(i)(A).

February 23, 2005

Wisconsin: Right to Life "admonished" by FEC

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission has admonished Wisconsin Right to Life for posting endorsements of President Bush and others on its Web site last year.

The FEC confirmed the finding Tuesday to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after a group that filed a complaint in the matter, the Campaign Legal Center, issued a news release on the case.

The nonprofit corporation is subject to a ban on corporate contributions and spending in federal elections, and the FEC said there was reason to believe the anti-abortion group violated those restrictions on corporations. ...

Wisconsin Right to Life's political action committee, a separate entity, endorsed Bush and others in the 2004 campaign and Wisconsin Right to Life posted a link to those endorsements, as well as a photo of the president, on its corporate Web site. -- FEC admonishes Wisconsin Right to Life | The Janesville Gazette | Janesville, Wisconsin, USA

January 10, 2005

Lawyer files FEC complaint over Michael Moore speeches

The Michigan Daily reports: As a result of complaints about filmmaker Michael Moore’s speaking tour on campuses nationwide, the Federal Election Commission is investigating major universities — not yet including the University of Michigan — because of what is alleged to ba violation of campaign finance laws.

David Hardy, an attorney from Tucson, Ariz., and author of “Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man,” has filed two complaints with the FEC. Hardy said the speaking fees collected by Moore constitute a breach of the ban on corporate donations to a political campaign. Hardy emphasized that it did not matter for whom Moore campaigned.

“(If they’re) paying a man who is giving a speech to influence the election, then they are breaking the law,” he said.

Hardy said he selected the universities using an Internet search engine. -- Legal complaints filed over Moore's campus speeches

Mr. Hardy apparently does not agree that the cure for speech you don't like is Moore speeches.

December 19, 2004

Arizona: Renzi took corporate funds, FEC audit says

The Arizona Republic reports: U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi financed much of his 2002 election campaign with hundreds of thousands of dollars from his corporations, a practice prohibited by law, a Federal Election Commission audit has determined.

Renzi contends the money was his own and was properly disclosed as personal loans to his campaign.

The audit, performed over 15 months and released Wednesday, also said Renzi's campaign committee failed to report $39,000 in contributions received, $101,000 in expenditures made and omitted details about hundreds of donors.

Most of those defects have been corrected, but the corporate money should be paid back if the Renzi group does not provide documentation that it was personal, the report says. -- Renzi got banned finances, audit says

November 10, 2004

Right to work group asks for investigation of SEIU

AP reports: An anti-union group is urging the Federal Election Commission to investigate one of the largest unions in the country, claiming the Service Employees International Union unlawfully spent workers' dues to elect Democrats in last week's election.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation said Wednesday that SEIU gave millions of dollars from members' dues to a partisan political group, America Coming Together, which in turn spent the money illegally to finance political campaigns through the Democratic National Committee.

The foundation complained that dues are required as a condition of union membership and cannot be spent on political campaigns. -- Boston.com / News / Washington / Group wants FEC to investigate union election spending

October 28, 2004

Rep. Wolf charges Socas has violated "millionaire's amendment"

AP reports: A congressman alleged Thursday that his opponent violated a new campaign finance law designed to regulate the spending of millionaires seeking political office.

The campaign of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican, complained to the Federal Election Commission that Democrat James Socas failed to notify the commission and Wolf's campaign as required when he contributed an additional $150,000 to his own campaign on Monday.

The Wolf campaign said the $150,000 came on top of $349,000 Socas had already given to his campaign, for a total of $499,000 in self-financing.

Under the new law, a House candidate who lends or contributes more than $350,000 to his own campaign must notify his opponent, the opponent's political party headquarters and the FEC within 24 hours of doing so. -- Va. congressman files FEC complaint (AP via bakersfield.com)

October 21, 2004

Minnesota GOP accuses Dem candidate of using corporate logo

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: Republicans have accused Patty Wetterling's campaign of violating federal election law in its recent TV ad featuring "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh.

In a complaint filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in Washington, D.C., said the ad is an illegal corporate in-kind contribution because it flashes the trademarked title of Walsh's show on the screen.

Corporations may contribute to separate political action committees, but federal law prohibits them from giving directly to a campaign. ...

Wetterling campaign officials said they don't plan to pull the ad. And Brian Svoboda, an attorney for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., said the GOP complaint has no legal merit.

Svoboda said the FEC in 1995 ruled that corporate logos or names have no assignable value and refused to stop a candidate from using one in an ad. "The only thing standing between this complaint and its dismissal is the couple of months it will take for [the FEC] to pick it up and read it," he said. -- GOP says TV-show mention in Wetterling ad is illegal (startribune.com)

October 12, 2004

FEC fines carpenters' union

AP reports: A Kentucky carpenters union will pay a $297,000 fine after reaching an agreement with the Federal Election Commission over allegations of coerced campaign contributions.

Three former officers of the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters, formerly known as the Kentucky State District Council of Carpenters, forced union employees to make political contributions to federal candidates.

The FEC investigation also found that union employees were required to work candidates' campaign offices under threat of job loss.

The commission also found that union also illegally bundled contributions from union members and failed to disclose communications to members that expressly advocated the election or defeat of federal candidates in 1998, 2000 and 2002, the agreement with the FEC says. -- FEC fines carpenters union over election activities (AP via Kentucky.com)

October 11, 2004

Dems object to TV stations' running anti-Kerry film

AP reports: The Democratic Party and 18 senators are objecting to a broadcasting company's plan to air on 62 TV stations a critical documentary about John Kerry's anti-war activities after he returned home from Vietnam three decades ago.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has asked its television stations - many of them in competitive states in the presidential election - to pre-empt regular programming to run the documentary as part of an hourlong program two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

Based near Baltimore, the company owns or manages affiliates of major broadcast networks in several states, including Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Mark Hyman, a vice president of corporate relations for Sinclair who also is a conservative commentator for the company, said Monday the show would contain some or all of the 42-minute film as well as a panel discussion of some sort. He said final details had not been worked out. ...

The Democratic National Committee planned to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday contending that Sinclair's airing of the film should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to President Bush's campaign. Also, 18 Democratic senators sent a letter to the Federal Communication Commission asking that it investigate whether Sinclair's plan was an improper use of public airwaves. -- Democrats object to broadcaster's plan to run anti-Kerry documentary on 62 stations (AP via Kansas.com)

September 27, 2004

Center for Individual Freedom files FEC complaint against Kerry campaign and CBS

The Center for Individual Freedom issued this press release last Thursday: The Center for Individual Freedom today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that CBS and Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc., illegally coordinated election communications.

The complaint charges that CBS and the Kerry campaign violated federal campaign finance laws when they colluded to attack President Bush based on claims and documents now believed to be fake. ...

The complaint centers on a September 8 segment on the CBS program "60 Minutes II." In the segment, CBS correspondent Dan Rather attacked President Bush’s record of service in the National Guard. CBS’s charges relied on a number of documents which it later admitted were not reliable.

As a condition for handing over the documents, CBS’s source, Bill Burkett, required that CBS arrange for a conversation between him and a senior advisor of the Kerry campaign. On September 4, just four days before the segment aired, a CBS producer spoke with Joe Lockhart, a senior advisor to the Kerry campaign. Lockhart admits that during the conversation he and the CBS employee discussed the upcoming segment attacking President Bush. Lockhart also admits that he later called Burkett at CBS’s urging. -- CFIF Files FEC Complaint Against CBS, Kerry Campaign (cfif.org)

September 22, 2004

CREW files FEC complaint against Chamber of Commerce group

AP reports: A group funded in part by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that plans to run ads criticizing Democratic ties to trial lawyers is the target of a complaint filed with election officials Wednesday.

The complaint to the Federal Election Commission is against The November Fund by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group headed by Melanie Sloan, a former aide to congressional Democrats and former federal prosecutor.

It accuses the U.S. Chamber of making an improper corporate donation of $500,000 to the fund and says the group plans to run ads targeting Democratic vice presidential nominee and former trial lawyer John Edwards despite a ban on the use of corporate contributions for such TV and radio ads within two months of the Nov. 2 election.

The complaint also accuses Republicans, including President Bush's campaign, of coordinating with the group. It says three of the fund's leaders have ties to the GOP or the Bush administration: director Ken Rietz was an adviser to Bush's 2000 campaign; fund co-chairman Craig Fuller has worked with the administration to block the importing of prescription drugs from Canada; and Bush named co-chairman and former Sen. Bill Brock to a panel on the West Coast port worker lockout, the complaint says. -- Group Targeting Dems Prompts FEC Complaint (AP via statesman.com)

CREW's press release has a copy of the complaint and its attachments.

September 16, 2004

Rep. Weiner fined $47,000

AP reports: Rep. Anthony Weiner, a potential mayoral candidate in 2005, has been fined $47,000 to settle fundraising violations in his 2000 campaign for Congress.

The civil penalty stems from an audit by the Federal Election Commission, which issued its findings Thursday.

The FEC said Friends of Weiner took "excessive contributions from 183 individual contributors for the 2000 primary and general elections for which they could not produce documentation."

The same audit found the Queens Democrat's campaign had misreported a loan from the candidate and failed to file necessary paperwork for 29 contributions. -- Rep. Weiner fined $47,000 by FEC for 2000 campaign (AP via Newsday.com)

September 9, 2004

Michigan Dems file FEC complaint over GOP help to Nader

AP reports: The Michigan Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the petition drive that put Ralph Nader on the Nov. 2 ballot as an independent candidate for president.

About 45,000 of the 50,000 signatures collected for Nader were collected by people with ties to the Michigan Republican Party, Democrats have said.

The value of that work exceeded $5,000, Democrats say, which they say would be a violation of election law regulating campaign contributions. Nader and the Republican Party should be fined, and Nader should not be eligible for presidential campaign matching funds because he failed to report the contributions, Michigan Democratic Party Executive Chairman Mark Brewer said.

"None of this gets him off the ballot. That piece is done," Brewer said Thursday. "But there could be fines that would affect both Republicans and the Nader campaign." -- Michigan Democrats continue protest over Nader candidacy (AP via freep.com)

September 7, 2004

FEC probing Tauzin to GOP transfer

The Hill reports: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is investigating a possible violation of money-transfer laws between the campaigns of Rep. Billy Tauzin Jr. (R-La.) and his son, Billy Tauzin III.

The investigation was sparked by a complaint from an assistant district attorney in New Iberia, La., whose father is a friend of one of the younger Tauzin's opponents for the 3rd Congressional District seat, state Sen. Craig Romero. The senior Tauzin is vacating the seat.

The complaint cites an interview between the senior Tauzin's part-time communications director, Ken Johnson, and a Louisiana political reporter. Roger Hamilton, who filed the complaint, alleged that Johnson's remarks -- "there may be some winking and nodding but no deals" -- were made in reference to the recent endorsement by the Louisiana State Republican Party of Tauzin III.

Hamilton charges the party with endorsing Tauzin's son so that it could access his father's campaign coffers -- worth about $900,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- a charge leveled by Romero immediately after the endorsement announcement. -- FEC probes Tauzin money-transfer claim (The Hill.com)

August 23, 2004

FEC throws out complaint against former candidate over gift from mother

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: Deadlocked 3-3 on a key vote, the Federal Election Commission has thrown out a complaint that former Minnesota congressional candidate Janet Robert illegally financed her 2002 Democratic campaign with an $800,000 gift from her mother.

Facing the impasse, the commission voted 5-1 in early June to drop the matter. Records of the secret inquiry were posted on its Web site on Aug. 12.

The investigation into Robert's gift was triggered by a Star Tribune report and a complaint from the National Republican Congressional Committee in October 2002. Less than a month later, she lost the Sixth District congressional race to GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy by a wide margin.

At issue was whether Robert, her mother, Mary Robert of St. Louis, Mo., and her campaign treasurer, Teresa Silha, broke federal law because the gift exceeded the campaign donation limit of $1,000 per election.

Last year, the commission fined Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson of New Jersey $210,000 for using proceeds from a $1 million parental gift in September 2000 to help win his House seat that year. Janet Robert and her lawyers argued that her mother's gift on Aug. 29, 2002, qualified for an exception to the donation limit because Mary Robert also gave $800,000 to each of Janet's nine siblings and, with her late husband, had bestowed similar gifts over the years. -- Complaint against Janet Robert thrown out (startribune.com)

August 21, 2004

Kerry campaign files FEC complaint over ties between Swift Boats Veterans for Truth and GOP

AP reports: The Kerry campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission that alleged the group [“Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”] behind the ad was illegally coordinating its efforts with the Bush-Cheney campaign. It cited "recent press reports" and the group's own statements.

The Bush campaign denied the allegation, as did the organization that aired the ad. ...

Kerry's campaign then trumpeted a political flier from Florida advertising a "pro-USA political rally" that appeared to show the veterans' group and the local Bush-Cheney campaign as sponsors.

Campaigns often file complaints with the FEC, but the commission rarely intervenes quickly enough to alter the course of a race. -- Kerry tries to counter impact of war criticism (AP via The State)

I have not been able to find a copy of the Kerry complaint to the FEC, but a more complete version of Kerry's evidence against the SBVT is on his website.

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth site is here.

Update:
Reuters reports:
A Vietnam veteran who worked with President Bush's campaign has left over his appearance in a commercial by a group challenging Democratic candidate John Kerry's war record, a campaign spokesman said on Saturday.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Ken Cordier was a Bush supporter during the 2000 election and served as a member of his a steering committee to help reach out to veterans during this election.

"Col. Cordier did not inform the campaign of his involvement in the advertisement being run by (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth)," Schmidt said. "Because of his involvement with this 527 (group), Col. Cordier will no longer participate" in the steering committee. -- Bush Supporter Leaves Campaign Over Role in Ad (Reuters.com)

Thanks to Daily Kos for the link.

August 15, 2004

Was Nader's New Hampshire petition coordination or contribution to Bush?

The Portsmouth Herald reports: An expert in election law cited unanswered questions in trying to determine whether laws were broken last weekend when Republican groups worked to get independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the [New Hampshire] state ballot - presumably to help the Bush/Cheney campaign.

State Democrats filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, claiming that an effort by a New Hampshire consulting firm and a Missouri-based nonprofit group to gather signatures for Nader from supporters of President Bush constituted a prohibited contribution to Nader. Election lawyer Jan Baran said FEC investigators need to determine whether the groups - Norway Hill, a consulting firm in Hancock founded by Republican David Carney and Choices for America - coordinated the drive with either the Nader or Bush camps. ...

Last week, Kittery, Maine, resident Emily Sawka protested being assigned by a Portsmouth temp agency hired by Norway Hill to collect voters’ signatures for Nader outside a Stratham rally where Bush was speaking. The temp workers allegedly used scripts recommending that they tell potential signers that "without Nader, Bush would not be president."

While the complaint alleges that the drive wrongfully helps the Nader campaign, Baran said the script raises the question of whether the drive was a contribution to Bush.

"It presents an interesting issue when they are saying that this will help the Bush campaign," said Baran. "Bush’s name is mentioned." -- Bush connection to Nader signatures? (Portsmouth Herald)

===

It’s still unclear who financed the drive. Many of the workers were hired through Adecco temp agency in Portsmouth at $12 per hour and told they would receive an extra $100 for every 100 signatures they solicited.

But Carney has said that he and Choices for America never worked out the financials. While he said he hopes Norway Hill gets paid, Carney expects the firm will have to pay some of the expenses itself.

The FEC complaint alleges that, if Norway Hill is not paid, then "it is clear that they have expended corporate resources for the direct benefit of the Nader campaign."

If Choices for America does foot the bill, the complaint says, then the nonprofit "has made excessive and/or impermissible contributions." Both actions would be in violation of U.S. campaign laws, the Democrats allege. -- Dems urge FEC probe of Nader drive ((Portsmouth Herald)

August 10, 2004

Three campaign watchdogs sue over Swift Boat Veterans' ad

AP reports: Three campaign finance watchdog groups filed a complaint Tuesday accusing a group of Vietnam veterans of violating the campaign finance law by airing an ad that challenges Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's military record.

Democracy 21, the Center for Responsive Politics and the Campaign Legal Center argue that the ad by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth violates a federal ban on the use of unlimited donations, often referred to as "soft money," to influence federal elections.

The group bought $500,000 worth of airtime to run the ad in Wisconsin, Ohio and West Virginia.

In the ad, the group accuses Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, of lying about his war record and betraying fellow veterans by later protesting the conflict. Veterans who served with Kerry on his swiftboat have said the group is lying, and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has called the ad "dishonest and dishonorable."

In the complaint to the Federal Election Commission, the watchdog groups argued that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth should have used only limited contributions from individuals known as hard money on the ad and should disclose its donations and spending in reports to the FEC. -- Campaign watchdog groups file complaint over anti-Kerry ad (AP via tallahassee.com)

The complaint is here.

August 5, 2004

FEC dismisses complaint against 'Fahrenheit 9/11'

Reuters reports: A U.S. regulatory agency has dismissed the petition of a conservative advocacy group to bar TV ads for Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary as a breach of federal restrictions on "electioneering" activity.

In a unanimous decision made public on Thursday, the Federal Election Commission found no evidence that the movie's ads had broken the law or that distributors of the film intended any violations in the future.

The commission said it agreed with the recommendation of its general counsel that the FEC "cannot entertain complaints based upon mere speculation that someone might violate the law."

Moore has said he intended for the film, a blistering critique of President Bush and his conduct of the war in Iraq, to help persuade Americans vote against a second term for Bush in November. -- Panel Dismisses 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Complaint (Reuters.com)

August 4, 2004

"Uncollateralized, undocumented, no interest, no due date" loans

AP reports: A Republican candidate for the 10th Congressional District [in North Carolina] claims his opponent in the Aug. 17 runoff election committed campaign finance violations to influence the outcome of last month's primary election.

In the latest salvo of the highly contested race, state Rep. Patrick McHenry _ along with two other Republicans who lost in the primary _ has signed a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission against Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman.

The complaint filed this week alleges Huffman failed to properly disclose the source of more than $266,000 collected during the primary campaign. ...

"These funds received by Huffman in the form of uncollateralized, undocumented, no interest, no due date and still-secret loans constitute unlawful and excessive political contributions," according to the complaint filed by The Williams Law Firm in Hickory. -- GOP congressional candidate accuses opponent of violations (AP via Winston-Salem Journal)

August 2, 2004

Coordination between EMILY's list and Castor

AP reports: A supporter of [Florida] Senate candidate Peter Deutsch filed a complaint on Monday against EMILY's List and Democratic rival Betty Castor, arguing that the political organization was illegally coordinating its activities with Castor in the upcoming Senate primary.

Lori Glasser, a Democratic activist and veteran of the 2000 recount, said in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission that upcoming televised advertising in Florida by a subsidiary of the group, and ties between EMILY's List and the Castor campaign, showed the coordination of campaign activity, illegal under campaign finance laws. -- Deutsch supporter files complaint against EMILY's List, Castor (AP via theledger.com)

July 20, 2004

Michigan candidate may have misused the Millionaire's Amendment

AP reports: Brad Smith, who is one of six Republicans running for a Michigan congressional seat, may have violated campaign finance law when he used a new provision called the Millionaire's Amendment to boost fund-raising.

A legal opinion written by the Federal Election Commission suggests Smith loaned his campaign too much money to be eligible for the Millionaire's Amendment. ...

One of Smith's opponents, former state Sen. John "Joe" Schwarz, soon filed a complaint with the FEC. The FEC hasn't yet ruled on that complaint, but FEC spokeswoman Kelly Huff said an advisory opinion written for a Senate case last year says a candidate's eligibility is based on the total amount loaned, not the amount reached when the candidate repays some of the loan.

"The fact that (the candidate) may subsequently receive reimbursement ... for those expenses does not change their character as expenditures from personal funds," the opinion said. -- Smith may have violated campaign finance law (AP via Lansing State Journal)

July 12, 2004

CREW files FOIA request with FEC over Westar report

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announces: Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking the FEC to produce a report detailing the illegal campaign contributions made by former Westar employees to Members of Congress in exchange for an amendment to the energy bill beneficial to Westar.

In 2003, Westar's board of directors retained campaign finance law expert Tim Jenkins of the law firm O'Connor & Hannan to investigate the campaign finance issues raised in an earlier report. Jenkins' probe focused on a 2002 plan to influence pending federal legislation by making political donations, including a $25,000 donation made to one of Majority Leader Tom DeLay's PACS, Texans for a Republican Majority -- an organization also the subject of a criminal inquiry in Texas. Westar voluntarily forwarded Jenkins' report to the FEC earlier this year.

Upon learning of its existence, CREW FOIA'd the Westar report so that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct could take the report's findings into account when considering an ethics complaint filed by Cong. Chris Bell (D-Texas) against Tom DeLay last month. The Westar contribution is a major focus of Bell's complaint. CREW has asked the FEC to provide the report on an expedited basis so that the Ethics Committee has time to review the report before it decides whether or not to conduct a full- fledged investigation, a decision which may be made as early as Aug. 6, 2004. -- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington FOIAs Report on Westar Campaign Contributions from FEC (U.S. Newswire)

July 1, 2004

FEC levies big fines in Oklahoma

After an investigation that lasted more than five years and implicated dozens of people connected to Gene Stipe and his former law firm, the Federal Election Commission announced Thursday that it had levied $569,500 in fines against those most involved in illegally funneling Stipe's money to Walt Roberts' 1998 congressional campaign.

Stipe, who resigned his state Senate seat and gave up his law license last year after being charged criminally in the case, paid the largest fine, $267,000. Combined with his fine in the criminal case, Stipe paid $1,002,567 to the federal government for his schemes to get around the federal limits on campaign contributions.

The Stipe Law Firm, which illegally helped Roberts' campaign in numerous ways, paid a fine of $101,000. -- Stipe hit with additional fines from FEC(NewsOK.com)

June 30, 2004

"FEC levels large fine against developer"

The Federal Election Commission on Wednesday leveled one of its largest fines ever against a New Jersey developer for contributing money to political candidates in the names of his partnerships when he did not have the authority to do so.

Charles Kushner, a major Democratic Party donor, agreed to pay FEC $508,900, said FEC spokesman George Smaragdis. The FEC investigation focused on $540,900 contributed to various political candidates and committees between Dec. 5, 1997 and Aug. 17, 2000. Each check had the same Florham Park, N.J., address as the Kushner Companies, and all were signed by Kushner.

The investigation found that Kushner, who controls 40 partnership entities, violated the FEC's "partnership contribution regulations" by failing to obtain the agreement of the partners to whom the contributions were attributed. -- FEC levels large fine against developer (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

June 29, 2004

Citizens Union complaint against "F 9/11"

As if Michael Moore and his documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 needed any more publicity, the conservative group Citizens United weighed in just in time to help.

Citizens United has a reputation for being outspoken. Its own ads critical of former President Bill Clinton aired during his recent 60 Minutes interview. Now the group is making news again by calling for government limits on TV and radio ads for Moore's new movie, alleging they are tantamount to campaign ads and should be subject to federal laws on campaign finance.

News of the Citizens United complaint was just part of the controversy over Fahrenheit 9/11, a media storm that helped the film top all other releases at the box office last weekend (and become the most successful documentary ever). -- Will Campaign Laws Govern 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Ads? (NPR print report)

GOP complains about pro-GOP committee

The Republican National Committee filed a complaint Tuesday accusing a Texas group of posing as a GOP organization to raise money by phone using an Indian telemarketing firm and through fund-raising mailings.

The fund-raising telephone calls prompted false, widespread rumors that the RNC was outsourcing its donor phone calls to India, the committee's complaint to the Federal Election Commission says.

The complaint accuses The Republican Victory Committee, based in Irving, Texas, of impersonating the Republican Party and fraudulently raising money by telling prospective donors it was being solicited by the GOP for use by Republican candidates.

Jody Novacek, one of those named in the RNC complaint, said The Republican Victory Committee is a tax-exempt, political organization raising money for get-out-the-vote activities around the country. -- GOP accuses Texas group of outsource scam (AP via Boston.com)

June 27, 2004

"F 9/11" ads anger Republicans

The advertising push behind Michael Moore's new documentary critical of President Bush, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is angering some Republicans, who say it is little more than a commercial campaign devised to help Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. ...

Until the marketing campaign began, Republicans had been dismissive of the film, arguing that it would have little effect on the election because its audience would consist mostly of people already planning to vote against Mr. Bush.

But the advertising campaign has been a different story.

"There's only a very small percentage of Americans that are going to go and see this movie," said David Bossie, head of Citizens United, a conservative group that has run advertisements to promote Mr. Bush. "A much larger number are going to be bombarded by these political ads run by Michael Moore, potentially all the way through the election."

Mr. Bossie has asked the Federal Election Commission to classify the advertising as political and subject to rules that restrict broadcasts of commercials paid by unregulated money from corporations or unions. Under those rules, the advertisements for the film would have to stop 30 days before the Republican National Convention begins on Aug. 30. -- Advertising: Movie Ads or Political Ads? Complaint Says Line Is Too Fine (New York Times)

June 26, 2004

Will "Fahrenheit 9/11" affect the election?

During the screening [of Fahrenheit 9/11] at the Uptown Theatre, I sat next to a newspaper reporter who was raised in an activist Republican party family, whose sister worked previously for the Bush White House and who considers herself moderate. She cried through the second half of the movie, which featured graphic images of injured and killed Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers and focused on the U.S. military's efforts to recruit minorities and poor whites.

She and others who don't hew to Moore's hardcore lefty vision of the world gave him credit for, if nothing else, presenting an incredibly cohesive and emotionally stirring piece of work.

"There's no way people are not going to come out of this hating Bush," she said. Which, of course, is exactly what the GOP fears. Conservative opposition is not based on the belief that this is just some commie-pinko rant that'll be ignored by the masses.

The White House, furious about the Bush-bashing, anti-war movie, has wisely decided to take a low-key approach, allowing surrogates to do most of the work – and they've done it with zeal. One California-based organization, Move America Forward, has orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to theaters around the country, demanding that they refuse to show Moore's movie. Conservative talk radio and television hosts have filled their segments with rants against it. And the president's father called Moore a "slimeball."

The conservative group Citizens United announced Thursday that its president, David N. Bossie, had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asserting that television ads for the movie are restricted under some of the new campaign finance rules created by the McCain-Feingold legislation. -- Buzz Around Moore's Movie May Be Able to Shake the Election (washingtonpost.com)

June 2, 2004

FEC fines Casal for reimbursing others for contributions

The Federal Elections Commission has fined a former Venezuelan commerce minister for making $2,500 in illegal campaign contributions to the 2000 re-election campaign of Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, now a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Jose Casal, a former Venezuelan senator and minister of commerce, agreed to a civil penalty of $8,250 for violating federal campaign finance laws barring contributions by a foreign national, according to documents released by the FEC on Wednesday.

Penelas' campaign said the mayor was unaware of the case and did not know Casal. ...

Casal reimbursed five employees of Victec Environmental Services, Inc., for making $500 individual contributions to Penelas' mayoral campaign committee, according to an FEC factual and legal analysis dated Oct. 7, 2003. -- FEC fines contributor to Penelas mayoral campaign (AP via heraldtribune.com)

May 18, 2004

Group files FEC complaint against Bicardi PAC

Citing a "pattern of flagrantly violating campaign finance laws," a watchdog group yesterday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the political action committee (PAC) of rum maker Bacardi.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan and nonprofit watchdog group, filed the complaint against the PAC and its Treasurer Robert Higdon, for failing to provide campaign finance reports and for not disclosing contributions made to lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) are among the lawmakers to receive money from the Bacardi PAC. -- FEC complaint filed against PAC (The Hill.com)

To see the CREW press release and complaint, go here.

April 23, 2004

Public Citizen asks for money laundering investigation

The consumer-advocacy group Public Citizen called on the Federal Election Commission Thursday to investigate possible money laundering by a donor who gave to Republican Geoffrey Davis in Kentucky's 4th District.

The complaint came the same day The Hill reported that Quentin Nesbitt of Cincinnati, after donating the legal limit of $4,000 to Davis, gave $5,000 to Family First PAC; the PAC then made an identical contribution, on the same day, to Davis.

The contribution from Family First PAC was the only one the political action committee has made to a candidate in this election cycle. Nesbitt's contribution was the only donation the PAC has received this election cycle. -- Public Citizen asks FEC to investigate Ky. donation (The Hill.com)

March 31, 2004

GOP files FEC complaint against Kerry and 527's

The Republican National Committee and President Bush's campaign opened a new field of fire Wednesday on Democratic "soft money" groups that are raising millions of dollars to air anti-Bush ads and do grass-roots organizing to defeat him.

In an unprecedented move, the RNC and the Bush campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) accusing anti-Bush Democratic "527" groups such as the Media Fund and America Coming Together (ACT) of a conspiracy to violate federal election laws.

The Republicans will ask the FEC to immediately dismiss the complaint, a legal gambit which would allow the Republicans to immediately go before a federal judge and seek an order blocking the 527 groups from using the unlimited contributions on which they now rely for the funding. -- Battling over anti-Bush donors (MSNBC)

For the Republican press release with lots of background information, including the full text of the 67-page FEC complaint, go here.

March 7, 2004

Ashcroft's committee raised money to pay the FEC fines

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's 1998 leadership political action committee, Spirit of America, and his Senate reelection campaign committee, Ashcroft 2000, raised more than $100,000 last year in order to pay a fine and legal costs for violating campaign finance laws, according to Federal Election Commission records and Garrett Lott, treasurer of both committees.

The funds raised last year included individual contributions and income the leadership PAC derived from renting out a political mailing list, according to Lott and FEC records. -- Ashcroft Funds Under Scrutiny (washingtonpost.com)

And TalkLeft wants to know ...

Did John Ashcoft tell a fib to the Federal Election Commission?

By renting out a political mailing list, Ashcroft's Spirit of America PAC made $165,000 in 1999 and 2000. It transferred $112,000 of those funds to Ashcroft's 2000 Senate reelection campaign committee. But the PAC had already donated the maximum permitted by law, so the FEC wondered whether the transfer was illegal. Ashcroft's campaign committee insisted that Ashcroft owned the mailing list that generated the funds, exempting the fund transfers from contribution limits. After a two year investigation, the FEC disageed.

March 3, 2004

Fannie Mae, RNC settle suit with FEC

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has entered into conciliation agreements with the Republican National Committee (RNC), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), and the Federal National Mortgage Association ("Fannie Mae") resolving violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act).

The conciliation agreement resulted in total civil penalties of $132,000. Fannie Mae will pay $10,000, the NRSC will pay $24,000, and the RNC will pay a penalty of $98,000.

The Commission found that certain donations from Fannie Mae during the period from 1998 through 2000 were made to or deposited in nonfederal accounts of the party committees that were not "building funds." The Act prohibits contributions or expenditures from Congressionally chartered corporations in connection with any election. The law in effect at the time provided for a specific exception for contributions to building fund accounts. -- FEC News Release

February 25, 2004

Soft money complaint in Oregon GOP primary

Congressional contender Jim Zupancic has filed a federal election complaint against his GOP rival, state Sen. Jackie Winters, alleging she illegally spent money on a newspaper insert.

Zupancic's complaint with the Federal Election Commission asserts that Winters violated campaign finance laws by using money from her state legislative campaign fund to promote her congressional candidacy.

But Winters' campaign called the complaint frivolous. It said the newspaper insert was an "end-of-session report" that dealt with the actions of the 2003 Legislature, not with Winters' bid for Congress. ...

Zupancic, a Lake Oswego lawyer, said Winters violated the federal law's prohibition against "soft money" by using money from her state campaign committee to promote her candidacy for Congress.

That's because Winters' state committee received money from corporations which under federal law are barred from making donations to congressional candidates, he said. -- Congressional contender files complaint against rival (AP)

February 19, 2004

FEC admonishes Sen. Cantwell

The Federal Elections Commission admonished Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell for failing to disclose more than $3 million in loans to her 2000 Senate campaign until Jan. 30, 2001.

The FEC cleared Cantwell of allegations she benefited from favorable interest rates as charged in a complaint filed by the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog group based in Falls Church, Va.

The group complained to the FEC after news reports revealed Cantwell received two bank loans in the waning days of the 2000 election. By law, she should have disclosed the source of the loans before the election. -- Cantwell admonished for belatedly disclosing campaign loans (Seattle Times)

February 9, 2004

Pelosi committee fined by FEC

AP reports:

A fund-raising committee run by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was fined $21,000 for improperly accepting donations over federal limits, according to records and interviews. The political action committee, Team Majority, was one of two PACs Pelosi used to support candidates during the 2002 campaign. She stopped raising and donating money through the committee more than a year ago, after complaints that she was using the multiple PACs improperly to exceed limits.

The fine, paid in October, was reported in Team Majority's year-end campaign finance records, released recently. The case is still open, and the Federal Election Commission would not comment.

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the fine involved donations made to more than two dozen candidates from both of Pelosi's leadership PACs, Team Majority and PAC to the Future, that together exceeded federal limits.

February 7, 2004

NLPC files FEC complaint against Sharpton

The New York Times reports:

A nonprofit Washington-area group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, seeking to block the Rev. Al Sharpton's presidential campaign from receiving tax dollars. It is a potentially crippling blow to a candidacy already deep in debt and facing increasing criticism over its relationship with the Republican operative Roger Stone.

The group, the National Legal and Policy Center, which says it promotes ethics in government, filed its complaint on Thursday, charging that Mr. Sharpton's campaign expenses have been improperly subsidized by his not-for-profit civil rights group, the National Action Network, and by Mr. Stone, who has a reputation for questionable political tactics.

"The F.E.C. has an obligation to safeguard the integrity of the matching-funds process," said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. "If there is an effort to defraud the taxpayer, we seek to stop it."

The complaint comes at a difficult time for Mr. Sharpton, whose success at the Democratic presidential debates has not been followed by success at the polls. He has so far failed to pick up more than one delegate in the states that have held primaries, his campaign is about half a million dollars in debt and his relationship with Mr. Stone has even supporters questioning his credibility.

Mr. Sharpton's campaign manager, Charles Halloran, said yesterday that the complaint was without merit and amounted to "harassment by a right-wing demagogue group."

The NLPC website is here and its complaint is here.