FEC News Round Up
Several items on the Federal Election Commission’s agenda have been brought up in the news this week.
Republicans currently have a temporary majority at the FEC and could vote this week to stop the sharing of criminal violation information between the FEC and Department of Justice. The New York Times criticized the proposal to end the FEC relationship with the Department of Justice in a weekend editorial entitled “Sabotage at the Election Commission.”
The FEC will also consider whether contribution limits for heterosexual married couples should apply to gay couples in the wake of the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision. Under current rules, married couples can donate a total of $10,400 to a candidate while a single individual can only donate $5,200.
Last week, the FEC approved an Interpretive Rule on Reporting Payees of Political Committee Disbursements that requires political committees to disclose the ultimate recipients of payments over $200.
The new rule clarifies the requirement for political committees to report the full name and address of “each person to whom they make expenditures or other disbursements aggregating more than $200 per calendar year, or per election cycle for authorized committees, and the date, amount, and purpose of such payments.”
Committees are required to disclose this information in the following three situations:
- When a political committee reimburses an individual who advanced personal funds to pay committee expenses aggregating more than $200 to a single vendor (i.e. the committee reimburses a campaign staff travel reimbursements aggregating more than $200);
- When a political committee pays a credit card bill that includes a charge of more than $200 for a single vendor; and
- When a candidate uses personal funds to pay his or her authorized committee’s expenses that aggregate more than $200 to a single vendor without receiving reimbursement.
In each scenario, the political committee is required to itemize on Schedule B the “name and address of the original vendor, as well as the date, amount, and purpose of the original purchase made for or by the political committee.”
So what’s the bottom line? The FEC has the authority to penalize and request additional information from committees who do not fully disclose ultimate recipients of payments. Roll Call’s Political Money blog writes:
"An example regularly seen over the years is when an authorized campaign committee reports making a disbursement of several thousand dollars to a member of Congress, and simply lists “reimbursement” for purpose of disbursement, and without any other details. The Commission is left wondering if there were any ultimate vendors who were paid more than $200 and should have been identified. Now, if violations are found through audits or investigations, or other means, the penalties will be larger."