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Week of September 20-24, 2021 – FEC.gov

Commission meetings and hearings

No open meetings or executive sessions were scheduled this week.

Advisory Opinions

Request Received

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-10 (Retail Benefits, Inc.) On September 22, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2021-10. The requestor, Retail Benefits, Inc., operates an online platform that allows individual customers to earn rebates through shopping online, and it proposes to provide an option for its customers to use their earned rebates to make contributions to political committees. The requestor asks several questions about the permissibility of its proposal and its potential obligations as the provider of the service. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than October 1, 2021) and must issue a response no later than 60 days after the receipt of the complete request, that is, by November 22, 2021.

Draft Advisory Opinions

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-09 (Certified Voter, LLC) On September 23, the Commission made public two draft advisory opinions, Draft A and Draft B. The requestor, Certified Voter, LLC, intends to sell services to political committees whereby it creates customized “sponsored” versions of the committees’ own political advertisements. As proposed in the request, a contributor would make a contribution to a political committee and would ask to be identified as the “sponsor” of an ad already created by the political committee. The requestor would then create a brief message to be appended to the ad, including the sponsor’s name and hometown. The requestor would create, store, and provide the sponsored ads to the client political committee; the political committee would decide where to run the advertisement. The requestor asks whether the provision of these services to political committees for a commercially reasonable fee is permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), and Commission regulations.

Enforcement

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

MUR 7220

COMPLAINANTS: Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause
RESPONDENTS: Make America Great Again PAC, f/k/a Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., and Bradley T. Crate, in his official capacity as treasurer (Trump Committee); Donald J. Trump; and Trump Make America Great Again Committee and Bradley T. Crate, in his official capacity as treasurer (JFC)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Trump Committee and the JFC, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump Committee and the Republican National Committee (RNC), improperly raised millions of dollars in contributions after the 2016 general election, when the Trump Committee reported no outstanding debts. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the Trump Committee knowingly and willfully filed reports with the Commission that falsely attributed millions of dollars in contributions to 2016 general election debt retirement and failed to timely redesignate or refund contributions received after the 2016 general election. Finally, the complaint alleged that Trump and the Trump Committee failed to timely register for the 2020 election.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Vice Chair Allen Dickerson and Commissioners Sean J. Cooksey and James E. “Trey” Trainor, III and Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub issued Statements of Reasons.

MUR 7383

COMPLAINANT: Michael Marquardt
RESPONDENTS: Dave Hughes; and Hughes for Congress and Thomas Datwyler, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee misreported disbursements and cash-on-hand, failed to accurately report a $40,000 commercial loan, and used campaign funds for Hughes’ personal expenses. Hughes was a 2018 candidate for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Vice Chair Dickerson and Commissioners Cooksey and Trainor and Commissioner Weintraub issued Statements of Reasons.

MUR 7647

COMPLAINANT: Committee to Defeat the President (f/k/a Committee to Defend the President)
RESPONDENTS: Democratic National Committee and Virginia McGregor, in her official capacity as treasurer (DNC); Alexandra Chalupa; and Chalupa & Associates, LLC
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that during the 2016 campaign, Alexandra Chalupa, acting as an agent of the DNC, solicited, accepted, and received impermissible in-kind contributions from Ukrainian officials. According to the complaint, Chalupa (1) sought opposition research from Ukrainian officials on presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort; (2) asked Ukrainian officials to arrange for then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to make a comment to the press on Manafort’s activities in Ukraine; and (3) requested that Ukrainian officials ask a member of the U.S. Congress to initiate hearings regarding Manafort’s prior political consulting work.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that the DNC, Chalupa, and Chalupa & Associates, LLC solicited, accepted, or received prohibited foreign national contributions with respect to the allegations concerning opposition research and the alleged request to make a comment to the press. The Commission observed that these allegations were identical to the allegations considered by the Commission in MUR 7271, for which the Commission found no probable cause to believe that the respondents had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), and that the complaint presented no additional facts that would alter the Commission’s previous determination. The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegation that the DNC, Chalupa, and Chalupa & Associates solicited, accepted, or received prohibited foreign national contributions with respect to the alleged request that Ukrainian officials ask a member of Congress to initiate hearings on Manafort, observing that the alleged violation was beyond the statute of limitations.

MUR 7683

COMPLAINANTS: Common Cause; and Paul S. Ryan
RESPONDENTS: Our Revolution; and Senator Bernie Sanders
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Sanders established, financed, maintained, or controlled Our Revolution, a 501(c)(4) organization, and that Our Revolution, as an entity that was established, financed, maintained, or controlled by a federal candidate or officeholder, impermissibly solicited, received, and spent nonfederal funds (i.e., soft money) in violation of the Act.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Commissioners Cooksey and Trainor issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7742

COMPLAINANT: Matt Gaetz
RESPONDENT: Twitter, Inc. (Twitter)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that social media platform Twitter made either prohibited corporate contributions or undisclosed independent expenditures. Specifically, the complaint alleged that Twitter sought to influence the 2020 Presidential election by adding a “fact check” icon to two of President Donald J. Trump’s tweets as well as links to information regarding the accuracy of statements in Trump’s tweets. The complaint also argued that Twitter, as a platform for political debate, falls within the scope of the Commission’s debate regulations and that Twitter failed to use objective criteria for selecting participants. Accordingly, the complaint alleged that Twitter’s costs in fact-checking Trump’s tweets constituted either prohibited in-kind contributions or unreported independent expenditures since Twitter allegedly expressly advocated against Trump’s reelection.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that Twitter made prohibited corporate in-kind contributions or that it failed to disclose independent expenditures. The Commission observed that the available information indicated that Twitter’s costs to implement the “fact check” feature could not have resulted in an in-kind contribution because the “fact checks” at issue did not meet the definitions of electioneering communications or public communications and because there was no indication that Twitter acted in coordination with any federal candidate or committee. The Commission further noted that because Twitter’s communication in connection with the “fact checks” did not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a federal candidate, its implementation costs were not independent expenditures. Commissioner Cooksey issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7807

COMPLAINANT: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
RESPONDENTS: Snap, Inc. (Snap) and Evan Spiegel
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Snap violated the Act by making a prohibited corporate contribution to Joe Biden and Biden for President during the 2020 election. According to the complaint, in early June 2020, Snap stopped promoting Donald Trump on Snapchat’s “Discover” platform but continued to promote Biden. The complaint alleged that Snap’s decision was motivated by the “partisan ideology” of Snap CEO Spiegel and that Snap’s continued promotion of Biden on Discover amounted to millions of dollars in “free advertising,” which constituted a corporate in-kind contribution.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that Snap made a prohibited corporate in-kind contribution or that Spiegel consented to a prohibited corporate contribution. The Commission observed that the available information indicated that Snap’s decision to stop promoting the Trump campaign account on its platform was done for bona fide commercial reasons and not for the purpose of influencing the 2020 Presidential election. The Commission further observed that Snap’s continued inclusion of Biden on Discover was neither an advertising service nor a coordinated communication. Commissioner Cooksey issued a Statement of Reasons.

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 945

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENT: WFP IE Committee and Mike Boland, 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 (1) made reporting errors and other violations during the 2017-2018 election cycle, including cash-on-hand discrepancies totaling $677,426.03, (2) failed to disclose receipts on the 2018 October Quarterly Report totaling $163,913.80, (3) failed to properly report independent expenditures disseminated prior to payment totaling $120,000, and (4) failed to file 48-Hour Reports for independent expenditures totaling $50,000.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to (1) develop and certify implementation of a compliance operations manual, (2) certify that a representative of the Committee participated in an FEC conference, webinar, or other program, (3) perform an annual internal audit and reconciliation for two years, (4) develop and certify implementation of a process to track receipt of, and response to, communications with the Commission , and (5) pay a civil penalty of $12,000.

Administrative Fines

The Commission made public 10 closed cases, as follows. For more information, see the case documents in the Administrative Fine search system.

AF 3942 Frozen Food Political Action Committee and Thomas Kearney, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $230.

AF 3943 Hometown Values PAC and Francis Xavier Helgesen, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $834.

AF 3945 Janicek for Senate and Mark Thomas Nielsen, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $913.

AF 3946 Our Everyday PAC and Robert Emmons, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $1,947

AF 3947 People4America Federal Committee and Brian Herman, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $3,764.

AF 3948 Rob Anderson for Louisiana and Robert Jon Anderson, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $4,437.

AF 3949 Southeast Milk Inc Political Action Committee and Todd Proffitt, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $160.

AF 3950 Support American Leaders PAC and Matthew Nelson Tunstall, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $17,748.

AF 3951 Together We Thrive and Christopher Zullo, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $7,395.

AF 3952 Women Vote Smart and Amy S. Kremer, treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $7,395.

Litigation

Campaign Legal Center v. FEC (Case No. 21-0406). On September 10, the Institute for Free Speech filed a Brief of Amicus Curiae in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Outreach

On September 22, the Commission hosted a webinar on candidate registration.

Upcoming educational programs

September 29, 2021: The Commission will host reporting and FECFile webinars to help federal candidates and their campaign committees prepare to file their October 15 Quarterly Reports.

October 6, 2021: The Commission will host a FECConnect On Topic session, the FEC Virtual Conference Preview.

October 27, 2021: The Commission will host Candidate 101: Getting Started, an introduction to the campaign finance laws and regulations that apply to federal candidates and campaigns, covering topics such as candidate registration, treasurer responsibilities, contribution limits and prohibitions, and basic reporting requirements.

November 16-17, 2021: The Commission will host a Virtual Conference.

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

Upcoming Commission meetings

September 28, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

September 30, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

Upcoming reporting due dates

October 15: October Quarterly Reports are due. For more information, see the 2021 Quarterly Reporting schedule.

October 20: October Monthly Reports are due. For more information, see the 2021 Monthly 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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