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FEC v. Forbes


On February 19, 1999, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed this lawsuit after both parties asked for the action. The court order was preceded by the Commission's 4-2 vote to withdraw the lawsuit against 1996 Presidential candidate Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes, Jr.

The FEC had asked the court in September 1998 to find that bi-weekly columns authored by the candidate in Forbes Magazine resulted in violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act by Mr. Forbes, the magazine, his 1996 committee and the corporation he controls.


In November 1995, while running for the Republican nomination, Mr. Forbes took a leave of absence from Forbes, Inc., but continued to write the weekly column "Fact and Comment" for the company's flagship publication, Forbes Magazine. In addition, Mr. Forbes continued to be listed as editor-in-chief on the magazine's masthead, and he controlled the length, content and format of the articles. Excerpts of these columns also appeared in another Forbes publication, The Hills-Bedminster Press. The columns discussed some of the same themes Mr. Forbes pressed during his presidential campaign, including the flat tax, term limits, abortion and foreign intervention in Bosnia , and have been valued at $94,900.

The Commission contended that Mr. Forbes's columns were not bona fide news accounts and were not part of a general pattern of campaign-related news accounts that gave reasonably equal coverage to all opposing candidates. Furthermore, the Commission argued that Forbes, Inc., published the columns in consultation with Mr. Forbes while he was a candidate, thereby turning the corporation's expenditure for the columns-$94,900-into a contribution to the Forbes campaign.

In addition, the Forbes committee failed to report the value of the columns in any of its reports filed with the Commission. 2 U.S.C. §434(b)(2)(A).

The FEC asked the court to find that Forbes, Inc., made prohibited in-kind corporate contributions to the Forbes committee and that Mr. Forbes, in his capacity as CEO, violated the Act by consenting to the contributions. The FEC also asked the court to find that Mr. Forbes, the Forbes committee and the committee treasurer violated that Act when they knowingly accepted the prohibited in-kind contributions. The FEC asked the court to enjoin the defendants from violating the Act further and to assess a civil penalty against them.

Source:   FEC Record April 1999; and November 1998.