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Week of May 3-7, 2021 – FEC.gov

Commission meetings and hearings

On May 4 and 6, the Commission met in executive session.

On May 6, the Commission held an open meeting.

Advisory Opinions

Opinion Discussed

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-05 (Tally Up, LLC). On May 6, the Commission discussed two draft advisory opinions in response to a request from Tally Up, LLC, and held over a vote on the request to consider information gleaned from the requestor at the meeting. Tally Up, LLC asks whether it may use certain aggregated contribution data derived from FEC reports in its data services to candidates.

Request Received

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-06 (Rep. Robin Kelly/Democratic Party of Illinois)

On May 6, the Commission made public an advisory opinion request from Rep. Robin 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. Requestors ask whether adopting certain governance structures would permit Rep. Kelly to serve in her position as Chair without precluding the Democratic Party of Illinois from raising and spending non-Federal funds in amounts and from sources prohibited by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), but permitted under Illinois law. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than May 17) and must issue a response no later than 60 days after receipt of the complete request, that is, by July 6, 2021.

Enforcement

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

MURs 7313, 7319, and 7379

COMPLAINANTS: Common Cause, Paul S. Ryan, and Allen J. Epstein; Bradley Beychok and American Bridge 21st Century Foundation; and Brad Woodhouse and American Democracy Legal Fund
RESPONDENTS: Michael D. Cohen; Donald J. Trump; Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and Bradley T. Crate, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Trump Organization, LLC (Trump Organization); Trump Tower Commercial, LLC; Timothy Jost; and Essential Consultants, LLC
SUBJECT: Two complaints alleged that Cohen, who served as Trump’s personal attorney and an attorney for Trump’s business, the Trump Organization, coordinated with Trump to make a payment to Stephanie Clifford and thereby made an excessive, unreported, in-kind contribution to Trump and the Committee. The third complaint alleged that the Trump Committee converted campaign funds to personal use when it paid Cohen’s legal fees in connection with a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and prosecution of Cohen for, among other things, his role in making the Clifford payment.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file Chair Shana M. Broussard and Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub and Commissioners Sean J. Cooksey and James E. “Trey” Trainor III issued Statements of Reasons.

MUR 7395

COMPLAINANT: Nevada State Democratic Party
RESPONDENTS: Heller for Senate and Chrissie Hastie, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Senator Dean Heller; and Heller Enterprises, LLC (the Heller Company)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Heller Company made, and Senator Heller and the Committee knowingly accepted and failed to report, excessive or prohibited in-kind contributions in the form of discounted social media consulting services. Senator Heller was a 2018 candidate for Nevada’s seat in the U.S. Senate.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the matter. Vice Chair Dickerson and Commissioners Cooksey and Trainor and Chair Broussard and Commissioner Weintraub issued Statements of Reasons.

MUR 7479

COMPLAINANT: Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust
RESPONDENTS: Keeping America in Republican Control PAC and H. Russell Taub, in his official capacity as treasurer (KAIRC PAC); and H. Russell Taub
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that KAIRC PAC and Taub, its executive director, (1) failed to register as a political committee with the Commission despite raising over $1.57 million for federal elections, in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), (2) failed to file reports of its receipts and disbursements, (3) failed to include a disclaimer on its website, and (4) may have received contributions from foreign nationals. The complaint alleged further that Taub misused committee funds.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the matter. Vice Chair Dickerson and Commissioners Cooksey and Trainor issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7671

COMPLAINANT: Christopher Marston
RESPONDENTS: Big Tent Republicans PAC and Kerstin Schulz, in her official capacity as treasurer (the PAC); Lacy Johnson for Congress and Thomas Charles Datwyler, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); and Anton Lazarro
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that (1) a transfer of $6,049.73 from the Committee to the PAC may have constituted an excessive contribution, (2) the PAC and the Committee may have been coordinating their activities as Lazarro, the president of Big Tent Republicans, also identified as Johnson’s volunteer campaign manager, and (3) the PAC may have violated the Act by improperly amending its Form to identify as a nonconnected committee.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the matter in consideration of Commission priorities.

MUR 7749

COMPLAINANT: Dominic Stevenson
RESPONDENTS: Romero for Senate and Lynette Boniface, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Senate Committee); Friends of Paul J Romero, Jr and Wade Kelley Barrett, in his official capacity as treasurer (the House Committee); Paul J. Romero, Jr.
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Romero concealed the source of funding and expenditures for his 2016 U.S. House campaign for Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District and 2020 U.S. Senate campaign from Oregon. The complaint further alleged that Romero and the Senate Committee failed to file required disclosure reports, failed to include proper disclaimers on the campaign website, Facebook page, and yard signs, and conducted fundraising for the Senate campaign using a variety of committee names that are not registered or affiliated with the Senate Committee.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint in consideration of Commission priorities. The Commission noted that the Senate Committee had filed a report stating that it had not crossed the reporting threshold, and it noted the subsequent campaign finance reports filed by both the House Committee and the Senate Committee and the likely technical nature of the disclaimer violations. The Commission reminded the Respondents of the requirements for sufficient and accurate disclaimers.

Administrative Fines

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

AF 3739 Trooien for US Senate and Chris Marston, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $5,492.

AF 3854 Elect Henry Hewes 2020 and Henry Hewes, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed no civil penalty.

AF 3855 Farmers’ Rice Cooperative Fund and Bill Tanimoto, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $185.

AF 3857 Oklahoma Leadership Council and Michael G. McCutchin, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $329.

AF 3858 Republican State Committee of Delaware and Dennis Cini, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $1,252.

AF 3859 Tarrant County Republican Victory Fund and Shannon Dubberly, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $219.

AF 3860 Weld 2020 Presidential Campaign Committee, Inc. and Joseph Hunter, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $696.

AF 3909 Elect Henry Hewes 2020 and Henry Hewes, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed no civil penalty.

AF 3911 Republican State Committee of Delaware and Dennis Cini, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $1,252.

Litigation

Anna Paulina Luna for Congress v. FEC (Case No. 21-1213) On May 4, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Regulations and agency procedures

REG 2021-01 Candidate Salaries. On May 3, the Commission published a Rulemaking Petition and Notice of Availability on Candidate Salaries in the Federal Register. The petition asks the Commission to amend its existing regulations regarding candidate salaries and permissible uses of campaign funds to extend the period during which a candidate can draw salary from campaign funds, establish a minimum salary for candidates from campaign funds, and designate the payment of certain healthcare costs as permissible uses of campaign funds. The Commission seeks written comment on the petition, which may be submitted electronically. Comments must be received by July 2, 2021.

Proposed Amendment to Directive 17 On May 6, the Commission adopted a recommendation from the Acting General Counsel to amend Directive 17 to provide for certification of tally votes in which fewer than four Commissioners cast affirmative votes and all the remaining Commissioners objected for the record. Currently, in such circumstances, the Commission Secretary is required to place the matters on the next meeting agenda unless the Commission takes a second vote to instruct the Secretary to certify the matter immediately.

Legislative Recommendations

2021 Legislative Recommendations. On May 6, the Commission unanimously approved 14 legislative recommendations for 2021 to be submitted for consideration to Congress: 1) Electronic Filing of Electioneering Communication Reports; 2) Authority to Create Senior Executive Service Positions; 3) Prohibit Fraudulent PAC Practices; 4) Fraudulent Misrepresentation of Campaign Authority; 5) Conversion of Campaign Funds; 6) Prohibit Aiding or Abetting the Making of Contributions in Name of Another; 7) Require Disclosures to Contributors Regarding Recurring Contributions; 8) Make the Administrative Fine Program for Reporting Violations Permanent; 9) Increase and Index for Inflation Registration and Reporting Thresholds; 10) Increase the In-Home Event Exemption and Unreimbursed Travel Expense Exemption for Candidates and Political Parties; 11) Permit Political Committees to Make Disbursements by Methods Other than Check; 12) Extend the Time to Establish Reporting Dates for Special Elections; 13) Update Citations to Reflect the Recodification of [the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended] FECA; and 14) Repeal the Convention Funding Provisions Rendered Non-Operational by the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.

Commissioner Statements

On May 6, Commissioner Sean J. Cooksey issued an Interpretive Statement on the application of the personal-use restriction to Leadership PACs.

Outreach

On May 1, Commissioner Trainor was volunteer judge for the final round of Lincoln Douglas Debate Competition for National Christian Forensics and Communications Association at Bannockburn Church in Austin, TX.

Public Disclosure

On May 4, the Office of the Inspector General released a report on the Commission’s Compliance with Improper Payments Reporting for Fiscal Year 2020.

Press releases

FEC approves 14 legislative recommendations and amendment to Commission directive, discusses advisory opinion request (issued May 6)

Upcoming educational programs

May 12, 2021: The Commission will host a workshop on registration and Forms 1 and 2 for campaigns.

May 26, 2021: The Commission will host a webinar for political party committees.

June 9, 2021: The Commission will host a webinar for candidate committees.

August 17-18, 2021: The Commission will host a Regional Hybrid Conference in Denver, CO.

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

Upcoming Commission meetings

May 18, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

May 20, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

Upcoming reporting due dates

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

The Commission has posted filing deadlines for the Ohio 15th District Special Election. For information on the reporting dates for this election, refer to the Special Election Report Notice.

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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