On June 24, 2013, Garcia for Congress and its treasurer, Swati Patel, filed suit against the Commission in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas challenging a $15,220 administrative fine stemming from its failure to file required 48-hour notices of campaign contributions. The Garcia campaign and its treasurer ask the court to set aside or modify the penalty, and request a jury trial.
The plaintiffs are Garcia for Congress, the authorized campaign committee of Domingo A. Garcia, a candidate in the 2012 primary election for the 33rd Congressional District of Texas, and Swati Patel, the Garcia campaign committee’s treasurer.
On February 8, 2013, the Commission notified the plaintiffs that it found reason to believe the campaign violated the Act by failing to file 48-hour notices for contributions of $1,000 or more received less than 20 days, but more than 48 hours before the primary election. 2 U.S.C. §434(a). Based on the schedule of penalties at 11 CFR 111.44, the Commission assessed an administrative fine of $15,220 against the Garcia campaign and its treasurer.
Garcia for Congress challenged the Commission’s finding in a letter received by the agency’s Office of Administrative Review on March 1, 2013. After considering the committee’s written response, the Reviewing Officer recommended no changes to the Commission’s preliminary determination and assessment of an administrative fine of $15,220 against the Garcia campaign and Ms. Patel. On March 11, 2013, a copy of this recommendation was sent to the plaintiffs.
On May 20, 2013, the Commission adopted the recommendation and made a final determination that Garcia for Congress and its treasurer violated the Act and imposed the civil penalty of $15,220.
Garcia for Congress has filed suit to challenge the Commission’s decision. Among other things, the plaintiffs argue that the Commission “ignored that the FECA contains a safe harbor provision,” and that the fine assessed was “grossly disproportionate to what Plaintiffs failed to timely disclose.”