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For Immediate Release                                                                            Contact: Bob Biersack
May 2, 2007                                                                                                         George Smaragdis
                                                                                                                           Michelle Ryan

FEC Collects $29,500 in Civil Penalties and Completes Action on Four Enforcement Actions

WASHINGTON – The Federal Election Commission (FEC/the Commission) recently collected a total of $29,500 in civil penalties and completed action on four matters previously under review (MURs).

In MUR 5659, the Commission found reason to believe that the Democratic Party of Hawaii (DPH) violated several provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (the Act) and issued a $22,000 civil penalty.  The matter stemmed from an FEC audit of DHP covering January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2002.  According to FEC audit findings, the Democratic Party of Hawaii accepted prohibited and excessive contributions for its Federal account and failed to report several disbursements for allocable expenses.         

In MUR 5811, Doggett for Congress (the Committee), the principal campaign committee of Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), failed to accurately report approximately $168,402 in disbursements from 1999-2004.  The Committee failed to disclose disbursements accurately after misappropriation of funds by campaign staff member, Kristi Willis.  The embezzlement occurred through 81 unauthorized disbursements made by Ms. Willis through checks written to herself and a credit card company. The Commission found reason to believe that Doggett for Congress violated the Act, but took into consideration mitigating circumstances surrounding the misstatement of activity.  The Committee agreed to pay a $6,500 civil penalty in connection with the reporting violations.

In MUR 5678, the FEC found reason to believe that the Bully PAC Inc., a political action committee (PAC), violated the Act by making an excessive in-kind contribution to Liffrig for Senate, the principal campaign committee of Michael Liffrig, a 2004 Republican Senate candidate in North Dakota.  In a conciliation agreement with the Commission, Bully PAC agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty, waive its right to a refund of the excessive portion of the contribution and instruct Liffrig for Senate to give the excessive $4,000 to the U.S. Treasury.  Additional allegations made by the complainant were dismissed.

In MUR 5597, the Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint against John Wolfe, Jr., a 2004 Democratic Congressional candidate in Tennessee’s third Congressional District.  The complaint centered on the candidate’s weekly radio show.  However, the Commission determined that none of the allegations warranted an investigation.

This release contains only disposition information.

1.

MUR 5659

RESPONDENTS:

Democratic Party of Hawaii and Lynn Matusow, in her official capacity as Treasurer

COMPLAINANT:

FEC Initiated (Audit)

SUBJECT:

Acceptance of prohibited contributions; acceptance of excessive contributions; failure to disclose disbursements for allocable expenses.

DISPOSITION:

Conciliation agreement: $22,000.

The matter stemmed from an FEC audit of DPH covering January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2002.  During the 2002 cycle, the committee accepted prohibited and excessive contributions including funds from non-federal accounts of two labor organizations totaling $30,000 and excessive contributions totaling $36,000 from five individuals and one multicandidate PAC.  Additionally, DPH failed to report 52 disbursements for allocable expenses totaling $155,125 including payments for television and radio production, television advertising, research, postage and consulting. 

The FEC found reason to believe that DPH violated the Act.  In a conciliation agreement with the Commission, DPH agreed to pay a $22,000 civil penalty.

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5659 under case numbers in the Enforcement Query System. They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington, DC.

2.

MUR 5811

RESPONDENTS:

Doggett for U.S. Congress and James Cousar in his official capacity as Treasurer

COMPLAINANT:

FEC Initiated (Reports Analysis Division)

SUBJECT:

Failure to file accurate disclosure reports.

DISPOSITION:

Conciliation agreement: $6,500.

Doggett for U.S. Congress, the principal campaign committee of Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), failed to accurately report approximately $168,402 in disbursements from 1999-2004.  The matter was referred by the Reports Analysis Division (RAD) for enforcement after routine review of reports uncovered apparent unauthorized disbursements of Committee funds during the 1999-200, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004 election cycles.

Kristi Willis, a staff member in the Committee’s Austin, TX office was responsible for handling the Committee’s accounts until March of 2004.  She had worked in the office from 1998-2004, her last position was as Doggett’s district director.  From 1999-2004, Willis made 81 unauthorized disbursements from Committee accounts – 41 disbursements totaling $43,231.42 to “Ms. Kristi Willis” and 40 disbursements to “American Express” totaling $125,170.58.  The money embezzled by Willis from the Committee was spent on ordinary living expenses.

Due to Willis’s misappropriation of Committee funds, the Committee failed to disclose financial activity accurately with the FEC.  Following discovery of the embezzlement and inaccurate reporting, the Committee informed the appropriate law enforcement authorities and the Commission and voluntarily filed amended reports.  Willis was sentenced to jail for her actions and is in the process of repaying the Committee the money she embezzled.  The Committee has implemented new financial controls, including additional safeguards on the use of campaign checks.

The Commission found reason to believe that respondents violated the Act, but took into account the mitigating circumstances surrounding the misstatement of activity and efforts to prevent such future occurrences.  In a conciliation agreement with the Commission, the Committee agreed to pay a civil penalty of $6,500.  The Commission reached a separate conciliation agreement with Kristi Willis.

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5811 under case numbers in the Enforcement Query System. They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington, DC.

3.

MUR 5678

RESPONDENTS:

(a) Michael Liffrig

(b) Liffrig for Senate and Michael Liffrig, in his official capacity as Treasurer

(c) Harold Newman

(d) Newman Signs, Inc.

(e) Bully PAC and Nancy Schafer, in her official capacity as Treasurer

COMPLAINANT:

Renee Pfenning

SUBJECT:

Prohibited corporate contribution; excessive contribution; contribution in the name of another; and failure to disclose debts and obligations.

DISPOSITION:

(a,b) No reason to believe; dismiss the matter

(c,d) No reason to believe

(e) Conciliation agreement

The complainant alleged that the respondents committed multiple violations of the act.  According to the complaint:

  • Newman Signs, Inc. made, and Liffrig for Senate knowingly accepted, a prohibited in-kind contribution in the form of discounted billboard advertising space and production costs;
  • Harold Newman made an excessive contribution or contribution in the name of another to Liffrig for Senate by making an earmarked contribution to Bully PAC;
  • Bully PAC made, and Liffrig for Senate knowingly accepted, an excessive contribution or contribution in the name of another by Harold Newman; and
  • Liffrig for Senate failed to disclose certain debts and obligations.

The Commission found: no reason to believe that Newman Signs, Inc. or Liffrig for Senate violated the Act by making or accepting a prohibited in-kind contribution; no reason to believe that Harold Newman made an excessive contribution to Liffrig for Senate; no reason to believe that Liffrig for Senate accepted an excessive contribution; no reason to believe that Harold Newman or Bully PAC made a contribution in the name of another; no reason to believe that Liffrig for Senate knowingly received a contribution in the name of another; reason to believe that Bully PAC violated the Act by making an excessive in-kind contribution to Liffrig for Senate.  The Commission voted to admonish Liffrig for Senate for its failure to report an in-kind contriution and certain debts and obligations and accepting an excessive contribution, and dismissed these allegations in an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.  Bully PAC agreed to pay a $1,000 civil penalty, waive its right to a refund of the excessive contribution and instruct Liffrig for Senate to disgorge the excessive contribution of $4,000 to the U.S. Treasury. 

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5678 under case numbers in the Enforcement Query System. They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington, DC.

4.

MUR 5597

RESPONDENTS:

(a) John McConnel Wolfe, Jr.

(b) John McConnel Wolf, Jr. for Congress and Alfred F. Teaugue,    in his official capacity as Treasurer

COMPLAINANT:

National Republican Congressional Committee

SUBJECT:

Failure to comply with disclaimer provisions of the Act; failure to file 2004 Pre-Primary Report in a timely manner.

DISPOSITION:

(a,b) Dismiss the matter.

John Wolfe, Jr., a 2004 Congressional candidate, hosted a weekly radio show in Chattanooga, Tennessee during which he discussed local, state and national issues.  Wolfe paid $700 for one hour of radio time per week.  His committee, John Wolfe, Jr. for Congress reported the cost of some of the shows as expenditures.  According to the complaint, Wolfe used certain episodes of his radio to expressly advocate his own election and the defeat of his general election opponent and to solicit contributions for his campaign without complying with the Act’s reporting and disclaimer requirements.  The complainant also alleged that John McConnel Wolf, Jr. for Congress failed to file the 2004 Pre-Primary Report in a timely manner.  The Commission voted unanimously to exercise its prosecutorial discretion and dismiss the matter, as none of the allegations warranted an investigation.

DOCUMENTS ON PUBLIC RECORD:

Documents from this matter are available from the Commission’s web site at http://www.fec.gov by entering 5597 under case numbers in the Enforcement Query System. They are also available in the FEC’s Public Records Office at 999 E St. NW in Washington, DC.

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

1. Receipt of proper complaint

2. Reason to believe stage

3. Probable cause stage

4. Conciliation stage

FEC decisions require the votes of at least four of its six Commissioners.

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.                                                     

**The Enforcement Priority System (EPS) rates all incoming cases against objective criteria to determine whether they warrant use of the Commission’s limited resources.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an independent regulatory agency that administers and enforces federal campaign finance laws. The FEC has jurisdiction over the financing of campaigns for the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. Established in 1975, the FEC is composed of six Commissioners who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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