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Week of July 12-16, 2021 – FEC.gov

Commission meetings and hearings

On July 13 and 15, the Commission met in executive session.

On July 15, the Commission held an open meeting.

Advisory Opinions

Opinion Issued

Advisory Opinion 2021-06 (Rep. Robin Kelly/Democratic Party of Illinois) On July 15, the Commission approved an advisory opinion in response to a request from Rep. Kelly and the Democratic Party of Illinois. Rep. Kelly was elected chair of the Democratic State Central Committee, which governs the Democratic Party of Illinois. The Commission concluded that the state party may raise funds in amounts and from sources prohibited by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), but permitted under Illinois law through its non-federal account if the non-federal account is administered by a special committee without the review or approval of Congresswoman Kelly and Congresswoman Kelly has no role in the appointment of any member of the special committee. The Commission further concluded that Congresswoman Kelly’s name and title as chair must not be included on the letterhead of any solicitation that solicits funds in amounts and from sources prohibited by the Act because doing so would identify the solicitation as being sent on Congresswoman Kelly’s behalf in violation of the Act’s soft money prohibition.

Opinion Discussed and Extension of Time

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-07 (PACMS) On July 15, the Commission discussed and held over an advisory opinion request from PAC Management Services LLC (PACMS). The requestor asks several questions about its proposal to allow individuals to solicit and make contributions to political committees via its online platform. On July 15, the requestor agreed to an extension of time.

Enforcement

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

MUR 7038

COMPLAINANT: American Democracy Legal Fund
RESPONDENTS: Bernie 2016 and Susan Jackson, in her official capacity as treasurer (Bernie 2016); Senator Bernard Sanders; National Nurses United for Patient Protection and Martha Kuhl, in her official capacity as treasurer (NNUPP); Progressive Kick Independent Expenditures and Joshua Grossman, in his official capacity as treasurer (PKIE); and People for Bernie
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that PKIE, an independent expenditure-only committee, used the name “People for Bernie” for a special project and failed to include an adequate disclaimer on the People for Bernie website, in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act). Additionally, the complaint alleged that PKIE and NNUPP, another independent expenditure-only committee, engaged in illegal coordination with Senator Sanders and Bernie 2016, the authorized campaign committee for Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign. Further, the complaint alleged that NNUPP violated the Act by concealing the ultimate payee of some of its expenses for independent expenditures by reporting payments to the California Nurses Association.
DISPOSITION: The Commission dismissed the allegations that PKIE and People for Bernie violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), regarding the use of a candidate’s name and by failing to provide a disclaimer. The Commission observed that the available information did not indicate that People for Bernie was a project of PKIE. The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegation that NNUPP failed to adequately disclose the payee of certain disbursements. The Commission noted that the available information did not suggest that NNUPP’s payments to California Nurses Association reflected a scheme designed to conceal the ultimate payees. The Commission also found no reason to believe that NNUPP or PKIE made, or that Senator Sanders and Bernie 2016 accepted, excessive and prohibited contributions in the form of coordinated communications. The Commission observed that the complaint did not identify any specific communications with which to conduct an analysis as to coordination, nor did the available record support the complaint’s claim that impermissible coordination under the Act occurred.

MURs 7370 and 7496

COMPLAINANTS: Matt Burgess, End Citizens United; and Deanna Nesburg, End Citizens United
RESPONDENTS: New Republican PAC and Gentry Collins, in his official capacity as treasurer (New Republican); Rick Scott for Florida and Salvatore Purpura, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); and Rick Scott
SUBJECT: These matters involved allegations that Rick Scott, the Committee, and New Republican, an independent expenditure-only political committee, violated the soft money prohibitions of the Act. The complaint in MUR 7370 specifically alleged that Scott, as New Republican’s Chair, improperly used New Republican to support his 2018 candidacy for U.S. Senate from Florida before officially declaring his candidacy, and that New Republican raised and spent nonfederal funds as an entity controlled by a federal candidate. In addition, the complaint in MUR 7496 alleged that after Scott declared his candidacy in April 2018, the respondents engaged in impermissible coordination, which resulted in a prohibited contribution from New Republican to Scott and the Committee.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Chair Shana M. Broussard and Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7413

COMPLAINANT: Paul Simpson
RESPONDENTS: Jonathan Jenkins; Jonathan Jenkins for Senate and Chris Ehlinger, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); and Indie Party, Co. (IPC)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Jenkins, a 2018 U.S. Senate candidate from Texas who did not qualify for the primary election ballot, founded a corporation, IPC, that failed to register and report as a political committee with the Commission, in violation of the Act. The Complaint also alleged that (1) IPC made corporate contributions to Jenkins and the Committee, (2) IPC and Jenkins violated the Act’s soft money provisions, and (3) the Committee violated the Act through the use of “Indie Tokens,” a cryptocurrency.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Vice Chair Allen Dickerson and Commissioners Sean J. Cooksey and James E. “Trey” Trainor III issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7482

COMPLAINANT: Tennessee Citizen Action
RESPONDENTS: Marsha for Senate and Les Williamson, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Ward Baker; Club for Growth Action and Adam Rozansky, in his official capacity as treasurer (CFGA); Americans for Prosperity (AFP); and Senate Leadership Fund and Caleb Crosby, in his official capacity as treasurer (SLF)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee accepted excessive in-kind contributions in the form of coordinated communications from CFGA, SLF (both independent expenditure-only committees), and AFP, a section 501(c)(4) organization under the Internal Revenue Code, during Marsha Blackburn’s 2018 U.S. Senate campaign in Tennessee. The complaint specifically alleged that Baker, the Committee’s political consultant, spoke of such coordination during a speech he gave at a private event.
DISPOSITION: The Commission voted to dismiss the allegations that CFGA, AFP, and SLF made, or that the Committee knowingly accepted, excessive or prohibited contributions in the form of coordinated communications. The Commission further dismissed the allegation that Baker violated the Act. The Commission observed that the complaint failed to give rise to a reasonable inference that a violation of the Act occurred, and that the respondents provided credible information supporting dismissal of the matter.

MUR 7519

COMPLAINANT: Anthony Kern
RESPONDENTS: Arizona Democratic Party and Rick McGuire, in his official capacity as treasurer (ADP); Elect Katie Hobbs for Secretary of State and Martin Quezada, in his official capacity as treasurer (Elect Katie Hobbs); and Katie Hobbs
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that ADP spent over $1.8 million in nonfederal funds on federal election activity because an advertisement for a state-level candidate, Katie Hobbs, purportedly promoted and supported Kyrsten Sinema, who was a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018. The complaint argued that ADP should have allocated the cost between the federal and nonfederal portions of the advertisement.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe ADP or Elect Katie Hobbs violated the Act by using nonfederal funds to promote or support a federal candidate. The Commission further found no reason to believe that ADP failed to allocate the costs of the advertisement at issue between federal and nonfederal accounts. The Commission observed that the advertisement did not appear to constitute federal election activity, because it did not appear to support or promote Kyrsten Sinema’s candidacy. Further, the Commission noted that the ad did not appear to constitute activity that was allocable between ADP’s federal and nonfederal accounts.

MUR 7583

COMPLAINANT: Joseph Weinzettle
RESPONDENTS: Kemp for Governor, Inc. (Kemp Committee); Brian Kemp; Georgia Republican Party, Inc. and Joseph Brannan, in his official capacity as treasurer (GA GOP); Rinat Akhmetshin; Internet Research Agency (IRA); Federal News Agency, LLC (FNA); Majority Strategies, Inc.; Medium Buying, LLC; Something Else Strategies, LLC; and September Group, LLC
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Kemp, the Kemp Committee and the GA GOP accepted prohibited contributions or donations in the form of voter suppression activity and artificial social media support from foreign nationals in violation of the Act. The complaint specifically alleged that the Kemp Committee and the GA GOP contracted with foreign nationals in Romania and Russia, including the IRA and FNA, to provide social media services, masking the payments through disbursements to domestic vendors. The complaint further alleged that Akhmetshin, a foreign national and lobbyist, acted as an intermediary between the GA GOP and the Kemp Committee in the United States and IRA and FNA in Russia. According to the complaint, Akhmetshin did so by funneling payments by the Kemp Committee and the GA GOP meant for IRA and FNA through a number of domestic political consulting firms, including Majority Strategies, Inc., Medium Buying, LLC, Something Else Strategies, LLC, and September Group, LLC, which the complaint alleged Akhmetshin ultimately controlled.
DISPOSITION: The Commission dismissed the allegation that the Kemp Committee, Brian Kemp, and the GA GOP accepted or received foreign national contributions or donations. The Commission further dismissed the allegations that the IRA and FNA violated the Act by making foreign national contributions or donations. Finally, the Commission dismissed the allegations that Akhmetshin, Majority Strategies, Inc., Medium Buying, LLC, Something Else Strategies, LLC, and September Group, LLC, violated the Act by providing substantial assistance to the making or acceptance of foreign national contributions or donations. The Commission noted that the complaint did not allege, nor did the available record support, that any foreign national made donations to the Kemp Committee or to the GA GOP by providing services outside of their ordinary course of business or at a charge that was less than the usual and normal charge. Further, the Commission observed that the complaint did not credibly allege that any foreign national directly or indirectly participated in the Kemp Committee’s or GA GOP’s decision-making process in connection with election-related activities.

MUR 7895

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENT: DNC Services Corp./Dem. Nat’l Committee and Virginia McGregor, 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 there was reason to believe that the Committee failed to report $1,406,549.70 in debts on its original 2017 Year-End Report.
DISPOSITION: The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement providing for the Committee to pay a civil penalty of $21,600.

Administrative Fines

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

AF 3883 International Union of Operating Engineers/Local 17 Political Action Committee and Gary R. Swain, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $696.

AF 3944 International Warehouse Logistics Association PAC and Steve Dehaan, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $5,916.

Litigation

Anna Paulina Luna for Congress v. FEC (Case No. 21-1213) On July 9, the Commission filed an Answer in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

CREW, et al. v. FEC (Case No. 19-5161) On July 9, the Commission filed a Response to Petition for Rehearing En Banc in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

FEC v. LatPAC (Case No. 21-6095) On July 15, the Commission filed a Complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Regulations and agency procedures

Motion to Amend Directive 68 to Include Additional Information in Quarterly Status Reports to Commission On July 15, the Commission discussed a motion to amend Directive 68 to adjust the quarterly status of enforcement reports concerning matters pending before the Commission but was unable to reach consensus by the required four affirmative votes.

Press releases

FEC announces appointment of Charles Kitcher as Associate General Counsel (issued July 15)

FEC approves advisory opinion (issued July 15)

Outreach

On July 14, the Commission hosted a FECFile webinar for PACs and party committees.

Upcoming educational programs

August 17-18, 2021: The Commission will host a Virtual Conference online via Zoom.

For more information on upcoming training opportunities, see the Commission’s Trainings page.

Upcoming Commission meetings

July 27, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

July 29, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

August 10, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

August 11, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting and meet in executive session.

Upcoming reporting due dates

July 20: July Monthly Reports are due. For more information, see the 2021 Monthly Reporting schedule.

July 31: Mid-Year Reports are due. For more information, see the 2021 Semi-annual Reporting schedule.

Status of agency operations

See the Commission’s statement on the status of agency operations, updated on April 15, 2021. At this stage, most agency staff remain in telework status and the Commission’s office remains closed to visitors. See also the agency’s Workplace Safety Plan, dated May 6, 2021.

Additional research materials

Contribution Limits. In addition to the current limits, the Commission has posted an archive of contribution limits that were in effect going back to the 1975-1976 election cycles.

2020 Presidential General Election Results and Federal Elections 2018: Election Results for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are available. The data was compiled from the official vote totals published by state election offices.

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.

The 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.

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

Other election-related resources

Videos on protecting U.S. elections. The FBI’s Protected Voices initiative provides videos designed to help political campaigns protect themselves from foreign influence. The 2019 videos offer guidance on ransomware, business email compromise, supply chain, social media literacy, and foreign influence operations. Other videos, released in 2018, include cyber hygiene topics such as social engineering, patching, router hardening, and app and browser safety.

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 currently. The use of the agency’s logo, name, and likeness on other media has not been authorized by the FEC.

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