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Week of September 9 – 13, 2019 – FEC.gov

Commission meetings and hearings

On September 10, the Commission met in executive session.

The Commission voted to cancel the open meeting scheduled for September 12.

Advisory Opinions

Extensions of Time

Advisory Opinion 2019-15 (NORPAC)

On September 11, the requestor granted an extension of time for 30 days following the date that the Commission holds its first open meeting at which a quorum of at least four Commissioners is present. The requestor, a political action committee, asks whether it may deduct a percentage fee from earmarked contributions that it forwards in order to reimburse its own solicitation and administrative costs.

Advisory Opinion 2019-17 (Government Accountability Institute)

On September 11, the requestor granted an extension of time for 30 days following the date that the Commission has a quorum. The requestor asks whether its articles and commentary on issues relating to government corruption and fraud qualify for the media exemption from the definitions of “contribution,” “expenditure,” and “electioneering communication.”

Enforcement

The Commission made public three closed cases, as follows. For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

MUR 7214

COMPLAINANT: Ohio Democratic Party
RESPONDENTS: Ohio Republican Party State Central & Executive Committee and Tracey Winbush, in her official capacity as treasurer (ORP); Ohio Republican State Central & Executive Committee State Account and Tracey Winbush, in her official capacity as treasurer (State Account); Ohio Republican State Central & Executive Committee Restricted Fund and Tracey Winbush, in her official capacity as treasurer (Restricted Fund); and Ray C. Bliss Building Trust Fund (Building Trust Fund)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that ORP violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), by using nonfederal funds to finance the development of “Project Ruby,” a voter-targeting software database used for federal election activity. Specifically, the complaint alleged that ORP’s use of funds from its nonfederal account and funds from three nonfederal committees that it controlled—the State Account, the Restricted Fund, and the Building Trust Fund —to pay for Project Ruby violated the Act and Commission regulations because the disbursements were made in connection with federal election activity.
DISPOSITION: The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement providing for ORP to transfer a total of $489,875 from the ORP’s federal account to its nonfederal account and to pay a civil penalty of $100,000.

MUR 7500

COMPLAINANT: Baboucar Taal
RESPONDENTS: St. Mary’s Bank (Bank); and The Honorable Gillian Abramson
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that St. Mary’s Bank made campaign contributions in the form of fraudulently-provided mortgages in violation of the Act. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the Bank granted mortgages to individuals between six months to a year prior to the individuals registering as candidates for federal and state office and then discharging the loan obligation within 21 to 31 days after making the loan. The scheme allegedly resulted in creating the appearance that the candidate had sufficient funds to provide his or her own money for the campaign. A supplement to the complaint further alleged that Abramson, a judge on the New Hampshire Superior Court, provided legal relief to the Bank and engaged in a prohibited “straw campaign donation” via a contribution made by her husband to a federal candidate who was alleged to have been a beneficiary of the purported scheme.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that the Bank made prohibited corporate contributions in the form of mortgage issuance or that Abramson made an unlawful straw donation in the form of a donation from her husband to a federal candidate (which the Commission noted did not appear to be impermissible) because (1) the complaint’s allegations that prohibited contributions were made to a federal candidate were speculative and (2) while the complaint alleged that the Bank made an impermissible contribution to a 2010 Senate candidate from New Hampshire, the mortgage was issued several years after the conclusion of the candidate’s campaign.

MUR 7549

COMPLAINANT: Michael Goentzel
RESPONDENTS: Henry Martin for Congress and Mike Shryock, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee (1) failed to file a 2017 October Quarterly Report since its 2018 Year-End Report covered the period of August 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017; (2) failed to accurately report its cash on hand at the beginning of the reporting period in its 2018 April Quarterly Report, 2018 July Quarterly Report, 2018 Pre-Primary Report, and 2018 October Quarterly Report; and (3) failed to accurately report its election cycle-to-date totals in its 2018 April Quarterly Report, 2018 July Quarterly Report, 2018 Pre-Primary Report, and 2018 October Quarterly Report because they did not include previously reported expenditures.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint in consideration of Commission priorities.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Commission made public seven closed cases, as follows. For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

ADR 904

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Legislative Majority PAC and Eleanor Collinson, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee failed to disclose $363,767.47 in receipts and $348,033.94 in disbursements in its original 2017 Mid-Year Report.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to 1) certify that a representative participated in an FEC conference, webinar, or other program; 2) perform an annual internal reconciliation for two years; and 2) pay a civil penalty of $9,500.

ADR 906

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer and Robert Piaro, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee failed to disclose a total of $631,486.90 in disbursements on its original 2018 July Quarterly Report.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to 1) certify the implementation of a compliance operations manual within 60 days, 2) certify that a representative participated in an FEC conference, webinar, or other program, and 3) pay a civil penalty of $9,000.

ADR 907

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Tennessee Democratic Party and Dr. Geeta McMillan, in the official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee deposited a prohibited contribution of $15,000 into its federal account in 2016.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to 1) perform required corrective action in accordance with the Commission’s Corrective Action Plan within 30 days; 2) certify that a representative of the Committee participated in an FEC conference, webinar, or other program; and 3) pay a civil penalty of $2,100.

ADR 908

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Tony Cardenas for Congress and Jennifer May, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee received excessive contributions from individuals totaling $74,302 during the 2016 election cycle. Cardenas was a 2016 candidate for California’s 29th District.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to 1) retain an outside consultant to review its compliance procedures and conduct a training with those responsible for preparing and filing its reports; and 2) pay a civil penalty of $5,575.

ADR 910

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and Robert G. Owens, in his official capacity as Fiscal Officer (the Organization)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Organization failed to disclose $104,813.99 in disbursements on its original 12 Day Pre-General Report in 2018.
DISPOSITION: The Organization agreed to 1) develop and certify implementation of a compliance operations manual which includes internal controls, as well as a process to track receipt of, and response to, communications with the Commission; 2) certify that a representative of the Organization participated in a conference, webinar, or other program; and 3) pay a civil penalty of $4,500.

ADR 913

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Mississippi Democratic Party and Ryan Brown, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee failed to disclose $200,000 in receipts and $200,000 in disbursements on its original 2016 August Monthly Report.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to certify that a representative had participated in a conference, webinar, or other program, and to pay a civil penalty of $9,000.

ADR 915

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Massachusetts Democratic State Committee and Paul G. Yorkis, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee failed to disclose $260,001.53 in receipts on its original 2016 September Monthly Report.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to certify implementation of a compliance operations manual and to pay a civil penalty of $8,000.

Audits

Final Audit Report of the Commission on the South Dakota Democratic Party. On September 12, the Commission made public the Final Audit Report of the Commission on the South Dakota Democratic Party, covering campaign finance activity from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2016. The Commission approved findings relating to misstatement of financial activity (increased activity), contributions from unregistered organizations, and reporting of debts and obligations.

Litigation

CREW, et al. v. FEC (Case No. 19-1650). On September 12, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Commission’s Partial Motion to Dismiss.

Outreach

On September 9, Commissioner Caroline C. Hunter discussed the role of the Commission and decisions that affect campaigns with students from at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

On September 12, Chair Ellen L. Weintraub participated in a roundtable discussion, entitled “Law and Election Security,” hosted by Microsoft in Washington, D.C.

Upcoming events

On September 17, Chair Weintraub will host a symposium entitled “Digital Disinformation and the Threat to Democracy: Information Integrity in the 2020 Elections,” co-sponsored by Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and Eileen Donahoe, Executive Director of the Cyber Policy Center’s Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University. The symposium will discuss policy approaches and tools addressing such issues as how to minimize disruptions by foreign influence operations in the 2020 campaign. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP to https://pen.org/event/digital-disinformation-2020-elections/#DCrsvp by September 13, 2019.

Press Releases

FEC remains open for business, despite lack of quorum (issued September 11)

Upcoming Commission meetings and hearings

September 24: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

September 26: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

Meeting dates are subject to change. Please contact the Press Office the week of the scheduled meeting for confirmation.

Upcoming reporting due dates

September 20: September Monthly reports are due. For more information on monthly reporting dates, refer to the 2019 Monthly Reporting page of the Commission website.

Upcoming educational programs

On October 2, Commission staff will host reporting and FECFile webinars for candidate committees.

On October 29-30, the Commission will host a Regional Conference in San Diego, CA for candidates, political parties, and political action committees.

Additional research materials

FEC Notify: Want to be notified by email when campaign finance reports are received by the agency? Sign up here.

Additional research materials about the agency, campaign finance information, and election results are available through the Library section of the Commission website.

Printed copies of the 2019 edition of Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are available. Contact the Commission’s Information Division at (202) 694-1100 or (800) 424-9530 (press 6, when prompted) to order printed copies of the CFR at no charge. You may also email the Information Division to place an order at [email protected]

The 2019 Combined Federal State Disclosure and Election Directory is available. This publication identifies the federal and state agencies responsible for the disclosure of campaign finances, lobbying, personal finances, public financing, candidates on the ballot, election results, spending on state initiatives and other financial filings. To order a printed copy, please contact the FEC’s Public Records Office at 800/424-9530 (option 2) or 202/694-1120, or send an email to [email protected]

Federal Elections 2016: Election Results for the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives is available. The data was compiled from the official vote totals published by state election offices. To order a printed copy, please contact the FEC’s Public Records Office at 800/424-9530 (option 2) or 202/694-1120, or send an email to [email protected]

The FEC Record is available as a continuously updated online news source.

Join the FEC on Twitter and YouTube

Follow @FEC on Twitter to receive the latest information on agency updates, news releases, and weekly activity. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, FECTube: FECConnect on Demand, to watch instructional videos that have been designed to help candidates and committees comply with federal campaign finance laws. Note that the FEC is not currently available through other social media platforms at this time. The use of the agency’s logo, name, and likeness on other media has not been authorized by the FEC.

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