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For Immediate Release
December 29, 2005
Contact: Kelly Huff
Bob Biersack
Ian Stirton
George Smaragdis
COMPLIANCE CASE MADE PUBLIC
 

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Election Commission has recently made public its final action on three matters previously under review (MURs).  This release contains only disposition information.

1.

MUR 5485

RESPONDENTS:

Conversagent, Inc.

COMPLAINANT:

Scott Munro

SUBJECT:

Corporate contribution

DISPOSITION:

No reason to believe*

The complainant alleged that during the 2004 election cycle, computer users who had access to America Online’s (AOL’s) Instant Messenger service could activate “SmarterChild”, an interactive computer program that responds to users’ inquiries on any subject. The complaint alleged that, in response to inquiries regarding the 2004 presidential election, SmarterChild expressly advocated the election of John F. Kerry as President and opposed the re-election of President George W. Bush and this activity violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Conversagent, Inc. responded that the SmarterChild program was developed to interact with computer users. Conversagent, Inc. explained that it did not program SmarterChild to support or oppose any presidential candidate in particular, but that as on other topics, SmarterChild’s responses were based on the opinions expressed by its users. The Commission found no reason to believe the respondent violated the Act because the SmarterChild program represents bona fide commercial activity.

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5485 under case number in the Enforcement Query System.

They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington.

2.

MUR 5512

RESPONDENTS:

(a)  Hastings for Congress (FL/23), Thomas McIntosh, treasurer

(b)  Representative Alcee Hastings

(c)  Arthur Kennedy

(d)  Black Democratic Caucus of Broward County

COMPLAINANT:

Alan Brown

SUBJECT:

Failure to report in-kind contributions; failure to register and report; failure to report use of facilities; inaccurate reporting of tax payments

DISPOSITION:

(a)    Reason to believe, no further action*

[re: failure to report in-kind contributions]

No reason to believe*

[re: failure to report use of facilities; inaccurate reporting of tax payments ]

(b)    No reason to believe*

(c-d)     No reason to believe*

[re: failure to register and report]

The complaint alleged that a group of persons raised contributions for purposes of distributing a voter guide endorsing Hastings along with other state and local candidates but failed to register and report as a political committee.  It also alleged that the Hastings campaign used the home and facilities of staff without reporting in-kind contributions, that tax payments by the campaign were not reported correctly, and that payments for a post office box used by the campaign had been made by someone else and not reported.  The Commission found reason to believe that payments for the post office box should have been reported, but chose to take no further action.  There was no reason to believe that any other alleged activities represented violations of federal campaign law.

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5512 under case number in the Enforcement Query System.

They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington.

3.

MUR 5552

RESPONDENTS:

(a)  Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc., Robert A. Farmer, treasurer

(b)  DNC Services Corporation/Democratic National Committee, Andrew Tobias, treasurer

(c)   Washington Promotions and Printing, Inc. AKA DemStore.com

COMPLAINANT:

Amy Hamner

SUBJECT:

Disclaimer

DISPOSITION:

Dismiss the complaint

The complaint alleged that yard signs appearing in Ohio lacked the appropriate disclaimer identifying who paid for the signs. Kerry for President and the DNC replied that they were not responsible for the signs.  There was also no evidence that DemStore.com was anything other than a commercial enterprise that sold the sign for a fee. Since neither the campaign nor the party purchased the sign in question, the Commission dismissed the complaint.

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5552 under case number in the Enforcement Query System.

They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington.

*There are four administrative stages to the FEC enforcement process:

1. Receipt of proper complaint

3. “Probable cause” stage

2. “Reason to believe” stage

4. Conciliation stage

It requires the votes of at least four of the six Commissioners to take any action. The FEC can close a case at any point after reviewing a complaint.  If a violation is found and conciliation cannot be reached, then the FEC can institute a civil court action against a respondent.                                                     

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