For Immediate Release: Contact: Sharon Snyder August 30, 2000 Ron Harris Ian Stirton Kelly Huff
FEC TO FINE COMMITTEES FOR FAILING TO FILE JULY REPORT
WASHINGTON The Federal Election Commission has successfully launched its new Administrative Fines Program, sending dunning notices to committees for failing to file their July quarterly reports on time and informing them that they must pay fines which could range from $125 to $12,000.
Committees were notified of their July Quarterly filing obligations on June 21. Reports were due by close-of-business July 15 from candidates committees (those seeking election in 2000), and PACs and political party committees which do not file monthly. If sent certified or registered mail, reports must have been postmarked by midnight on the due date.
Announcement of the new Program in late May, and dissemination of articles and information outlining the programs potential scope, appear to have had an impact, since the number of late filers and non-filers has dropped significantly from April to July. Thirty percent of filers were late with their April Quarterly filings compared to only 18% for the July filings. That represents a 12 percentage point drop.
Committees have 40 days to either pay the penalties or submit written responses challenging the alleged violations. After analysis by a reviewing officer, a report will be forwarded to the Commission, with additional responses from the committees, if they so choose. If the Commission makes a final determination that committees have violated the law, civil money penalties will be assessed. Committees will have 30 days to pay the penalties or seek judicial review in U.S. District Court.
The new Program was authorized by Congress in response to a legislative recommendation made by the FEC. Its purpose is twofold: to free critical Commission resources for more important and complex enforcement efforts, and to reduce the number of financial reports filed late or not at all. The Administrative Fines Program encompasses a range of civil money penalties set high enough to discourage committees from considering them an acceptable cost of doing business, but not so high as to be exorbitant.
In general, reports that will be covered under the Program include: semi-annual, quarterly, monthly, pre-election, post-general and special election, and 48-hour notices. Civil money penalties will be determined by the number of days late, the amount of financial activity involved, and any prior penalties for reporting violations. Election sensitive reports (reports and notices filed prior to an election) will receive higher penalties.
Reports are considered to be filed late if they are received after the due date, but within 30 days of that due date. Election sensitive reports will be considered late if they are filed after their due date, but prior to four days before the election. Committees filing reports outside of these parameters will be considered non-filers.
As with other compliance programs, the agency has installed certain review thresholds. These are variable and will be modified over time. If the new program is successful, the Commissions goal is to increase the universe of committees subject to penalties, further enhancing disclosure.
Cases (even those which are initially challenged) are expected to be closed within four months. (This assumes no petition in district court.) If a respondent fails to pay the penalty, and has not filed a petition in district court, the Commission will transfer the case to the Department of the Treasury for collection, in compliance with the Debt Collection Improvement Act. Alternatively, the Commission may file suit in the appropriate U.S. District Court.
Dunning notices are being readied for committees which failed to file the July monthly and semi-annual reports.