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  • Weekly Digests

Week of August 12 – 16, 2019

August 16, 2019

Commission meetings and hearings

No open meetings or executive sessions were scheduled this week.

Advisory opinions

Advisory Opinion Request 2019-10 (Price for Congress)

On August 12, 2019, the Commission made public three drafts of AO 2019-10 in response to an advisory opinion request from Price for Congress, the principal campaign committee of former Representative Dr. Thomas Price. The requestor asks whether it may contribute committee assets to a non-profit organization and whether that organization may engage in certain activities if Dr. Price will serve as its president and CEO.

Enforcement

The Commission made public 10 closed cases, as follows. For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

MUR 7292

COMPLAINANT: Campaign Legal Center
RESPONDENTS: Cliff Stearns; and Friends of Cliff Stearns and Joan Stearns, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that former Rep. Stearns and the Committee violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), by using over $36,000 in Committee funds for impermissible post-candidacy personal expenses including, among other things, monthly cell phone bills, monthly salary payments to Stearns’ wife, political contributions meant to further Stearns’ lobbying career, membership dues and expenses at a private club and retreat, storage fees, and miscellaneous credit card charges.
DISPOSITION: The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement providing for (1) Stearns to refund $8,120.45 to the Committee for unreimbursed disbursements made for the Stearns’ personal use; 2) the Committee to disclose the reimbursements from Stearns as well as previous reimbursements made for payments to the Capitol Hill Club on its FEC reports; and 3) Respondents to pay a civil penalty of $6,900. Chair Ellen L. Weintraub issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7314

COMPLAINANT: Brad Woodhouse, American Democracy Legal Fund
RESPONDENTS: National Rifle Association of America (NRA); Alexander Torshin; Maria Butina; Paul Erickson; and Bridges, LLC
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Torshin, Butina, and Erickson engaged in a scheme to funnel millions of dollars in foreign money to the NRA for the purpose of financing election-related activities in violation of the Act. The complaint further alleged that Torshin and Butina, both of whom are foreign nationals, illegally participated in the decision-making process of the NRA regarding its election-related activities. Finally, the complaint alleged that the NRA knowingly accepted foreign money used to finance its election-related activities and that it knowingly allowed Torshin and Butina to participate in the NRA’s decision-making processes regarding its election-related activities.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Chair Weintraub issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7336

COMPLAINANT: American Democracy Legal Fund
RESPONDENTS: John Michael Mulvaney; Mulvaney for Congress and Pat Jenkins, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Mulvaney converted funds from his campaign committee to personal use after his February 2017 appointment as the Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) based on the lack of debt reported by the Committee for the post-resignation expenses.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint. The Commission observed that the payments at issue are the type typically made for campaign purposes and/or permissible winding-down expenses, and that the payments were made within the permissible six-month window specified in Commission regulations, but also that the Committee appears to have failed to report some debt.

MUR 7391

COMPLAINANT: Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust
RESPONDENTS: Jason Crow for Congress and Kristen Bear, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Jason Crow; and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Daniel Sena, in his official capacity as treasurer (DCCC)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the DCCC, the Committee, and Crow violated the Act by making and receiving excessive in-kind contributions in the form of polling information, mailing lists, and other resources. The complaint further alleged that neither the DCCC nor the Committee reported the alleged in-kind contributions. Crow was a 2018 candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that the DCCC, the Committee, or Crow made or received excessive contributions because the available information indicated that the DCCC and the Committee jointly purchased polling services and split the costs in accordance with Commission regulations on allocating polling expenses. The Commission also found no reason to believe that either the DCCC or the Committee failed to report disbursements associated with the polling services.

MUR 7412

COMPLAINANT: Libertarian National Committee
RESPONDENTS: Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation (Leadership Foundation); WTTW, Public Television Chicago (WTTW); KDKA-TV, Pittsburgh, PA (KDKA); NBCUniversal Media LLC (NBC); and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Leadership Foundation, WTTW, KDKA, NBC, and IAVA failed to use pre-established objective criteria in selecting debate participants, resulting in the exclusion of Libertarian candidates from the debates and prohibited corporate contributions from the debate sponsors to the participating candidates.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that the Leadership Foundation made prohibited corporate contributions because it used the pre-established criterion of having 10 percent support in the previous gubernatorial election to determine participants in the debate that it hosted for U.S. Senate candidates in Colorado. The Commission also found no reason to believe that NBC or IAVA made prohibited corporate contributions because the “Commander in Chief Forum” that the two co-hosted was not a debate and the expenditures were covered by the press exemption. The Commission found no reason to believe that WTTW made a prohibited corporate contribution because the “Candidate Forum” did not have two candidates and thus did not qualify as a debate, and it was covered by the press exemption. Finally, the Commission dismissed the allegation that KDKA made a prohibited corporate contribution. The Commission observed that it was not clear that the Libertarian candidate would have been included in the debate under the pre-established objective criteria.

MUR 7432

COMPLAINANT: Justin L. Brown
RESPONDENTS: John James for Senate, Inc. and Timothy Caughlin, in his official capacity as treasurer (James Committee); and Outsider PAC and Julie Dozier, in her official capacity as treasurer (Outsider PAC)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Outsider PAC, an independent expenditure-only political committee, made and the James Committee accepted and failed to report excessive and prohibited in-kind contributions in connection with Outsider PAC’s alleged funding of an advertisement that republished a portion of a James Committee advertisement. The complaint also alleged that Outsider PAC coordinated the ad with the James Committee through the use of a common vendor. James was a 2018 candidate for Michigan’s United States Senate seat.
DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. Chair Weintraub issued a Statement of Reasons.

MUR 7538

COMPLAINANT: Minya DeJohnette
RESPONDENTS: Unknown Respondents
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that a mailer criticizing Juan Figueroa, a candidate for Sheriff of Ulster County, NY, lacked proper disclaimers. The mailer contained images of Figueroa and President Donald Trump, but the complaint did not contain information as to the cost or the number of mailers distributed.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint in consideration of Commission priorities.

MUR 7540

COMPLAINANT: Renee Shawn Clement
RESPONDENTS: Lara Trump; and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and Bradley T. Crate, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Lara Trump and the Committee violated the Act when she personally delivered a $10,000 donation from the Committee to Paws Place, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The complainant asserts that Ms. Trump should have made the contribution from her own funds, not the Committee’s.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint in consideration of Commission priorities.

MUR 7544

COMPLAINANT: Timothy McGowan
RESPONDENTS: WBOY-TV, LLC; and Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that WBOY-TV broadcast a thirty-two minute political rally featuring Vice President Michael Pence and supporting Patrick Morrisey, a 2018 candidate for West Virginia’s United States Senate seat.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint in consideration of Commission priorities.

MUR 7554

COMPLAINANT: Maureen Daly
RESPONDENTS: Team Gayot and Nancy Marks, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee failed to report certain outstanding debts in its campaign finance reports for services provided by Gotham Strategies, LLC.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the complaint in consideration of Commission priorities.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Commission made public one closed case, as follows. For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

ADR 902

COMPLAINANT: Self-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Trooien for US Senate and Christopher Marston, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee failed to disclose approximately $45,000 in receipts and approximately $45,000 in disbursements on their 2018 October Quarterly Report due to the funds not flowing through the Committee’s account, but instead through the candidate’s personal credit card. Jerry Trooien was a 2018 candidate for U.S. Senate from Minnesota.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and took no action against the Committee.

Litigation

Campaign Legal Center, et al. v. FEC (USCA Case #18-5239) On August 14, the Commission and Intervenors-Appellees F8, LLC, Eli Publishing, L.C. and Steven J. Lund filed Briefs in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Coolidge Reagan Foundation v. FEC (Case No. 1:19-cv-01493) On August 15, the Plaintiff filed a Notice of Dismissal Without Prejudice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

CREW, et al. v. FEC (Case No. 19-1650) On August 12, the Commission filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Upcoming Commission meetings and hearings

August 20 and 22: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

August 22: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

Meeting dates are subject to change. Please contact the Press Office the week of the scheduled meeting for confirmation.

Upcoming reporting due dates

August 20: August Monthly reports are due. For more information on monthly reporting dates, refer to the 2019 Monthly Reporting page of the Commission website.

Upcoming educational programs

On August 27-28, the Commission will host a Regional Conference in Chicago, IL for candidates, political parties, and political action committees.

Additional research materials

FEC Notify: Want to be notified by email when campaign finance reports are received by the agency? Sign up here.

Additional research materials about the agency, campaign finance information, and election results are available through the Library section of the Commission website.

Printed copies of the 2019 edition of Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are available. Contact the Commission's Information Division at (202) 694-1100 or (800) 424-9530 (press 6, when prompted) to order printed copies of the CFR at no charge. You may also email the Information Division to place an order at info@fec.gov.

The Combined Federal State Disclosure and Election Directory is available. This publication identifies the federal and state agencies responsible for the disclosure of campaign finances, lobbying, personal finances, public financing, candidates on the ballot, election results, spending on state initiatives and other financial filings.

Federal Elections 2016: Election Results for the U.S. President, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives is available. The data was compiled from the official vote totals published by state election offices. To order a printed copy, please contact the FEC’s Public Records Office at 800/424-9530 (option 2) or 202/694-1120, or send an email to pubrec@fec.gov.

The FEC Record is available as a continuously updated online news source.

Join the FEC on Twitter and YouTube

Follow @FEC on Twitter to receive the latest information on agency updates, news releases, and weekly activity. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, FECTube: FECConnect on Demand, to watch instructional videos that have been designed to help candidates and committees comply with federal campaign finance laws. Note that the FEC is not currently available through other social media platforms at this time. The use of the agency’s logo, name, and likeness on other media has not been authorized by the FEC.