The Administrative Fine Program assesses civil money penalties for late and non-filed reports. Fines are established by a pre-existing formula.
Most reports that committees file are covered under the Administrative Fine Program. This includes semi-annual, quarterly, monthly, pre-election, 30-day post-general and special election reports, as well as 48-Hour Notices.
If the Commission finds “reason to believe” (RTB) a committee failed to file on time, the FEC will notify that committee in writing of the finding and the penalty amount. These letters are sent to the committee and its treasurer at the address listed on the committee’s most recent Statement of Organization (Form 1).
Committees have 40 days to either pay the fine or submit a written challenge. The Commission will then make the appropriate final determination.
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Paying a fine
Submitting a challenge
A challenge must explain, in detail, the factual basis for the challenge. A challenge must demonstrate at least one of the following:
- The RTB finding was based on factual errors.
- The civil penalty amount was improperly calculated.
- The committee couldn’t file because of unforeseen circumstances beyond its control, and when those circumstances ended, the committee filed the late report within 24 hours. This is also called the “best efforts” defense.
Issues that are covered by the “best efforts” defense include the following:
- Failure of FEC computers or FEC-provided software, even after the committee sought technical assistance from the FEC
- Widespread disruption of internet transmissions (not caused by the committee’s own computer or internet service provider)
- Severe weather or other disaster-related incident
Issues that aren’t covered by “best efforts” defense include the following:
- Computer, software or internet failure
- Negligence or inexperience
- Unavailable committee staff (including a treasurer’s absence)
- Not knowing filing dates
The Commission strongly encourages committees to submit their challenge documents in the form of affidavits or declarations, because these forms are generally given more weight and credibility.
Submit challenges in writing to:
All written responses and supporting documentation should be converted to PDF (Portable Document Format) and must be emailed to AdministrativeFines@fec.gov.
Written challenges are reviewed by an independent officer at the FEC who was not involved in the original RTB finding. The officer will make a recommendation, which the Commission will consider along with the committee’s challenge.
If a challenge is denied, committees have 30 days to pay the penalty or seek court review of the case.
Collection of unpaid fines
If a committee fails to pay a fine, the Commission may transfer the case to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Treasury currently charges a fee of 30% of the civil money penalty amount for its collection services, or 32% if the age of the debt is greater than or equal to two years old. The fee is added to the original civil money penalty. Additionally, the Treasury may recover a delinquent debt by the following:
- Offsetting any payments — including tax refunds and salary — to the committee
- Garnishing administrative wages
- Reporting the debt to a credit bureau
- Reporting the debt to the IRS as potential taxable income
- Referring the debt for litigation