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FEC v. Wofford



On March 27, 1996, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania accepted the January 1, 1996, recommendation of the magistrate judge in this case; a $15,000 civil penalty was imposed on the Citizens for Wofford committee and its treasurer for accepting contributions in excess of the per-election limits. 2 U.S.C. §441a(f).

This case involved an FEC enforcement action born out of the 1991 Pennsylvania special election to fill a U.S. Senate seat. The Democratic party nominated Harris Wofford on June 1, 1991. The party chose not to certify him to the state as the Democratic nominee until September 5, however, because the Republican party did not nominate his opponent, Richard Thornburgh, until then.

Mr. Wofford's principal campaign committee, Citizens for Wofford, regarded contributions received after June 1 but before September 5 as primary election contributions. In doing so, contributors were able to give twice as much to Mr. Wofford's general election effort; contributors gave up to their per-election limit for his primary election effort after the fact and again to his general election effort.


The court determined that contributions received after June 1 should have been treated as general election contributions. 11 CFR 110.1(b)(2) and (3).

Although the amount of unlawful contributions received by the defendants was stipulated to have been $198,075, the court did not issue a higher civil penalty because "there is not a basis presented upon which one may reasonably infer that the defendants acted in bad faith" and because the committee had less than $15,000 in assets and was $70,000 in debt. The court concluded: "A fine in the amount of $15,000 would be adequate to vindicate all of the interests of the Commission and of the public in this case."

Source:   FEC RecordJune 1996