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Week of July 19-23, 2021 – FEC.gov

Commission meetings and hearings

No open meetings or executive sessions were scheduled this week.

Advisory Opinions

Draft Advisory Opinions

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-08 (Fitzgerald). On July 22, the Commission made public two draft advisory opinions (Draft A and Draft B). The requestor, Congressman Scott Fitzgerald, became a member of Congress in 2021 after previously serving in the Wisconsin state senate. The requestor asks whether his state campaign committee and federal leadership PAC are affiliated committees under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), and Commission regulations and if so, whether the leadership PAC may receive unlimited transfers of funds from the state committee, provided that such funds comply with the source prohibitions and contribution limitations of the Act and Commission regulations. If the Commission finds that the proposed transfers are permissible, the requestor asks whether the state committee is required to notify its contributors that their contributions are subject to the applicable source prohibitions and contribution limitations at the time such transfers are made.

Enforcement

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

MUR 7478

COMPLAINANT: Sarah Eskra
RESPONDENTS: David Richardson for Congress and Brian Foucart, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee failed to include a disclaimer on a text message purportedly sent by the Committee. Richardson was 2018 candidate for Florida’s 27th Congressional District.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that the Committee violated the Act because there was no information to suggest that the Committee had a role in creating, authorizing, or disseminating the text message at issue.

MURs 7561 and 7563

COMPLAINANT: Joseph Weinzettle
RESPONDENTS: Ron DeSantis for Governor; Parabellum Strategies; Bradley Herold; Friends of Ron DeSantis; BlueInsight; Susan Wiles; Rinat Akhmetshin; Venture Media Partners, Inc.; September Group, LLC; Republican Party of Florida and Mike Moberley, in his official capacity as treasurer (RPOF); and Blaise Ingoglia
SUBJECT: The complaints in these matters alleged that Ron DeSantis for Governor and the RPOF accepted prohibited contributions or donations from foreign nationals in violation of the Act. The complaints alleged that these contributions or donations were generally in the form of voter suppression activity and artificial social media support. Specifically, in MUR 7561, the complaint alleged that DeSantis for Governor, through its campaign manager Herold, contracted with foreign nationals in Russia, Romania, and possibly other nations in Eastern and Central Europe to provide social media services, masking the payments to a purported Romanian firm through payments to domestic vendors. In addition, the complaint alleged that Wiles, DeSantis for Governor’s campaign chair, obtained foreign donations from the Russian government through a foreign lobbyist, Akhmetshin. The complaint in MUR 7563 alleged that RPOF made payments for social media services to foreign nationals through firms controlled by Herold.
DISPOSITION: The Commission voted to dismiss the allegations that DeSantis for Governor and Friends of Ron DeSantis, RPOF, and Ingoglia violated the Act by accepting or receiving foreign national contributions or donations. The Commission further voted to dismiss the allegation that BlueInsight violated the Act by making a foreign national contribution or donation, and to dismiss the allegations that Parabellum Strategies, Herold, Wiles, Akhmetshin, Venture Media Partners, Inc., and September Group, LLC, violated the Act by providing substantial assistance to the making or acceptance of foreign national contributions or donations. The Commission observed that the available information did not support the allegations that Ron DeSantis for Governor, Friends of Ron DeSantis, or the RPOF solicited or received prohibited foreign national contributions or donations, or that BlueInsight made prohibited foreign national contributions or donations.

MURs 7638 and 7658

COMPLAINANT: Edward Youngblood; and Kendra Arnold, Executive Director, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust
RESPONDENTS: Sara Gideon; Gideon Leadership PAC and Sean Smith, in his official capacity as treasurer (State PAC); Cain for Congress and Jeremy Fischer, in his official capacity as treasurer (Cain Committee) ; and Maine Democratic Party and Betty Johnson, in her official capacity as treasurer (Maine Democratic Party)
SUBJECT: The complaints alleged that (1) the State Committee made and Gideon allowed her name to be used to make federal contributions in the name of another to the Cain Committee and Maine Democratic Party in 2015 and 2016, (2) the Cain Committee and Maine Democratic Party knowingly accepted those prohibited contributions, and (3) the State PAC was required to register and report as a federal political committee.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion to dismiss the allegations that the State PAC made, and Gideon allowed her name to be used to make, contributions in the name of another. The Commission further found no reason to believe that (1) the Cain Committee or the Maine Democratic Party knowingly accepted prohibited contributions from the State PAC because the two committees maintained that they did not know of the reimbursements until August 2019, and the Commission has no information to the contrary, and (2) the State PAC was required to register and report as a political committee because the available information does not suggest that the State PAC’s major purpose was federal campaign activity.

MUR 7718

COMPLAINANT: Don “K” Kaltschmidt, Chairman, Montana Republican State Central Committee
RESPONDENT: Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund and Sally Ericsson, in her official capacity as treasurer (non-federal committee) (MCV Action Fund); and League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and Patrick Collins, in his official capacity as treasurer (LCVAF)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that MCV Action Fund, a non-federal committee registered with the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, may have knowingly received a prohibited donation from a foreign national by accepting $38,000 from LCVAF, a federal political committee, and used some of the funds to finance activities supporting the election of local city council candidates.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe the alleged violation occurred because (1) the relevant disclosure reports did not reflect any apparent contributions from a foreign national or any foreign source, (2) the complaint failed to identify any contribution allegedly from a foreign national, and (3) respondents stated that LCV Victory Fund did not accept, solicit, or receive contributions from foreign nationals and that it follows Commission regulations concerning possible impermissible contributions.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

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

ADR 1014

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENT: JewsChoose4MoreYears and Carol Greenwald, 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 timely file four 24-Hour Reports totaling $40,172 to support nine independent expenditures disclosed on its Amended 2020 Termination Report.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to 1) certify closure of its federal account, work with Commission staff to terminate its political committee status and reporting obligations, and file a Termination Report; and 2) pay a civil penalty of $3,000.

Regulations and agency procedures

Draft Notification of Availability on Subvendor Reporting. On July 21, the Commission made public a draft Notification of Availability to be considered at the open meeting scheduled for July 29, seeking comment on whether the Commission should initiate a rulemaking on the proposal in the Petition for Rulemaking from the Campaign Legal Center and the Center on Science & Technology Policy at Duke University. The petitioners ask the Commission to amend its existing regulations regarding reporting political committee expenditures and disbursements for independent expenditures and electioneering communications.

Litigation

Campaign Legal Center, et al. v. FEC (Case No. 21-5081) On July 22, Plaintiffs-Appellants filed an Opening Brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The Patriots Foundation v. FEC (Case No. 20-2229) On July 20, the Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered Default against the Commission. Also on July 20, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Default Judgment against the Commission and Defendant-Intervenors filed a Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Their Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in the District Court.

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 meet in executive session.

August 11, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

Upcoming reporting due dates

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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