The Commission has published its updated civil penalty amounts for 2021, pursuant to a federal law that requires federal agencies to adjust civil penalties for inflation each year. The updated amounts were published in the Federal Register on January 11, 2021.
As required by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, the Commission is adjusting for annual inflation the civil monetary penalties that are set forth in Commission regulations.
The federal campaign finance laws administered by the Commission include two types of civil monetary penalties to be adjusted for inflation each year:
- Penalties that are either negotiated by the Commission or imposed by a court for violations of the federal laws within the Commission’s jurisdiction. See 11 CFR 111.24.
- Penalties set under the Administrative Fine Program for late filing or non-filing of certain reports required by the Federal Election Campaign Act. See 11 CFR 111.43 and 111.44.
To calculate the adjustments for inflation, the Commission must apply the cost-of-living adjustment ratio (COLA) as directed by the Office of Management and Budget. The COLA ratio for 2021 is 0.01182 or 1.182%; thus, to calculate the new penalties, the Commission must multiply the most recent amounts listed in its regulations by 1.01182.
As adjusted, the potential civil penalty amounts listed under 11 CFR 111.24 for violations of federal campaign finance law have increased to range from $6,141 to $71,812 (from the previous range of $6,069 to $70,973). The amounts listed under this regulation are subject to negotiations and judicial discretion, and thus may not reflect the final penalty amounts that may be negotiated or imposed.
In regard to administrative fines imposed for late or non-filing of FEC reports, the table of penalty formulas listed in FEC regulations at 11 CFR 111.43 has been adjusted for the COLA, as has the base amount used in the calculation formula for late or non-filed 48-hour notices listed in 11 CFR 111.44(a)(1).
The adjustments were published at 86 Fed. Reg. 1737 on January 11, 2021, and apply to penalties that are assessed on or after that date, even if the violation predated the increase.