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Audits and repayment

The FEC audits all public funding recipients to ensure that the funds were spent in compliance with the law and that the candidate did not receive matching funds in excess of the candidate’s entitlement. Under certain circumstances, the FEC may require the repayment of public funds.

Conducting the audit

The audit examines the committee’s receipts and disbursements to be sure that the committee has used the federal matching funds or public grant in accordance with the law and to determine whether the committee has otherwise complied with the limitations, prohibitions, and disclosure requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act, as amended. The Commission will give the candidate's authorized committee at least two weeks' notice of the Commission's intention to commence fieldwork on the audit and examination.

Audit findings and recommendations

If the Audit staff finds that the committee has not complied with the election law, it reports its findings to the committee in an exit conference and, again, in a Preliminary Audit Report. The committee may respond by providing additional documentation to demonstrate that, in fact, it had complied with the law or by correcting the errors and amending its FEC reports, accordingly. The final report includes the Commission’s findings and the committee’s response to those findings.

The Audit staff makes two types of findings:

  1. Those that pertain to Title 26 of the U.S. Code (26 U.S.C), which cover the public funding provisions of the law.
  2. Those that pertain to Title 52 of the U.S. Code (52 U.S.C.), which cover the law’s contribution limits and prohibitions and its disclosure requirements.

If the Audit staff finds that the committee has not fully complied with the requirements for committees receiving primary election matching funds or a general election public grant, it may recommend, in an audit finding, that the Commission require the committee to make a repayment of matching funds to the U.S. Treasury.

Repayments of public funds

The Commission requires candidates to repay public funds to the U.S. Treasury when the FEC audit determines that:

  • The amount of public funds received exceeds the amount to which the candidate is entitled;
  • Public funds are used for purposes other than qualified campaign expenses (for example, used for expenditures in violation of federal or state law);
  • Spending limits are exceeded (applies to primary election matching funds only);
  • Surplus funds remain after debts and obligations have been paid;
  • Interest is earned on invested public funds; or
  • The spending of public funds is not sufficiently documented.

Presidential candidates may challenge any FEC repayment determination by following the procedures spelled out in FEC regulations. Otherwise, within 90 calendar days of service of the notice of the Commission's repayment determination(s), the candidate shall repay to the United States Treasury the amounts which the Commission has determined to be repayable. Upon application by the candidate, the Commission may grant an extension of up to 90 calendar days in which to make repayment.