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  • Weekly Digests

Week of April 22 – 26, 2019

April 26, 2019

Commission meetings and hearings

Advisory Opinions

Opinion Issued

Advisory Opinion Request 2018-13 (OsiaNetwork LLC) On April 25, the Commission approved an advisory opinion in response to a request from OsiaNetwork LLC concerning its proposal to provide services to political committees to enable individuals to use their internet-enabled devices to mine cryptocurrencies to benefit those committees. The opinion concluded that the proposal is permissible but does not fall under the internet volunteer services exemption from the definition of contribution, and would result in contributions from the participating individuals but not from OsiaNetwork, which would be acting as a commercial vendor.

Extension of Time Received

Advisory Opinion Request 2018-12 (Defending Digital Campaigns, Inc.) At its open meeting of April 25, the Commission discussed and held over consideration of an advisory opinion request from Defending Digital Campaigns, Inc. (DDC) concerning DDC’s proposal to provide or facilitate the provision of certain cybersecurity services, software, and hardware for free or at a reduced cost to federal candidate committees and national party committees on a nonpartisan basis and according to pre-determined, objective criteria. The requestor granted an extension of time through May 15.

Enforcement

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

MURs 6781, 6786 and 6802

  • COMPLAINANTS: ActBlue, LLC by Erin Hiller, Executive Director, and Stephen Gold, General Counsel; James Schroeder, Chairman, Atlantic, County Democratic Committee; Campaign Legal Center; and Democracy 21
  • RESPONDENTS: National Republican Congressional Committee and Keith Davis, in his official capacity as treasurer (NRCC) ; Frank LoBiondo; and Frank LoBiondo for Congress and Nancy Watkins, in her official capacity as treasurer
  • SUBJECT: The complaints alleged that NRCC impermissibly included candidate names without showing opposition to those candidates in the web addresses, page titles, and banner titles of approximately 35 websites, most of which solicited contributions for the NRCC. The complaint in MUR 6786 also alleged that in 14 websites relating to William Hughes, the NRCC solicited contributions fraudulently by misrepresenting itself as speaking on the candidate’s behalf. The complaint in MUR 6786 named as respondents Frank LoBiondo and Frank LoBiondo for Congress but did not allege any violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended, (the Act) by these respondents.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file. On April 26, Chair Ellen L. Weintraub issued a Statement of Reasons.

MURs 6789 and 6852

  • COMPLAINANTS: Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21; and Montana Democrats
  • RESPONDENTS: Special Operations for America and Kaarlo Hietala, in his official capacity as treasurer (SOFA); Zinke for Congress and Lorna Kuney, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Ryan K. Zinke; Continental Divide, LLC; and Battle Plan Strategies
  • SUBJECT: The complaint in MUR 6789 alleged that SOFA, an independent expenditure-only political committee Zinke founded in 2012 and operated until shortly before announcing his candidacy in October 2013, disseminated two television advertisements that republished campaign photographs obtained from Zinke and the Committee, resulting in a prohibited and excessive in-kind contribution and, further, that the ads were coordinated with Zinke and the Committee. In MUR 6852, the complaint alleged that the SOFA-Zinke relationship caused all of SOFA’s communications supporting Zinke to be coordinated with Zinke. The complaint alleged specifically that SOFA paid for Zinke’s exploratory activity, SOFA and Zinke shared a common vendor, SOFA solicited contributions specifically to support Zinke, and SOFA made large payments to Zinke’s family-controlled corporation, Continental Divide, and to a former SOFA treasurer and Zinke campaign consultant through his sole proprietorship, Battle Plan Strategies. The complaint in MUR 6852 also alleged that the two committees might be affiliated, and that Zinke may have filed his Statement of Candidacy late. Zinke was a 2014 candidate for Montana’s At-Large Congressional seat.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission closed the file.

MUR 7498

  • COMPLAINANT: Caitlin Girouard
  • RESPONDENTS: The AntiCorruption League and Jennifer May, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
  • SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that a debt of $7,000 to Thies & Grenell, LLC was not properly disclosed on the Committee’s 2017 Year End Report and its 2018 Monthly Reports between March and August of that year.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the matter in furtherance of Commission priorities.

Audits

  • Final Audit Report of the Commission on Jill Stein for President. On April 22, the Commission issued the Final Audit Report of the Commission on Jill Stein for President, covering campaign finance activity between January 17, 2015 and December 31, 2016. The Commission approved findings relating to net outstanding campaign obligations, matching funds received in excess of entitlement, misstatement of financial activity, and disclosure of debts and obligations. The Commission determined that the Committee must repay a total of $175,272 to the United States Treasury.
  • Audit Division Recommendation Memorandum on the New Jersey Republican State Committee. On April 25, the Commission approved an Audit Division Memorandum on the New Jersey Republican State Committee and a Draft Final Audit Report, covering campaign finance activity between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2016. The Commission approved findings relating to misstatement of financial activity and reporting of debts and obligations. The Audit Division will prepare the Final Audit Report within 30 days.

Litigation

Regulations and agency procedures

  • Interim Final Rule on Senate Filing. On April 25, the Commission approved an Interim Final Rule that amends the Commission’s regulations to conform to a statutory change enacted in September 2018 to make the FEC the point of entry for all reports, designations, and notices mandated by the Act for all filers. Previously, Senate candidates and certain political committees were required to file such reports, designations, and notices solely with the Secretary of the Senate. The Commission will accept comments on this revision to its regulations; comments received may be addressed in a subsequent rulemaking document.
  • Preliminary discussion of the Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. On April 25, the Commission discussed potential responses to the Special Counsel’s report, including asking lawyers in the Office of General Counsel to determine whether the report contains information relevant to any ongoing enforcement matters or potential rulemakings or policy statements. Chair Ellen L. Weintraub said she is hoping to convene a forum on this topic and has reached out to the Vice Chairman and asked for his assistance in compiling an appropriate panel of experts who could help advise the Commission. She also said she had been discussing the Commission’s internet communications disclaimers rulemaking with the Vice Chairman and hoped to be able to announce a plan for going forward and wrapping up that rulemaking in fairly short order.

Outreach

On April 24, Commission staff hosted a webinar for trade associations and their political action committees.

Press Releases

FEC discusses report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, approves advisory opinion, Audit Division Recommendation Memorandum, and interim rule (Issued April 26)

Upcoming Commission meetings and hearings

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

Upcoming reporting due dates

May 20, 2019: May 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 May 22, Commission staff will host a webinar for political party 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 2018 edition of Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are now 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 2017 Campaign Guide for Corporations and Labor Organizations is available. Other Campaign Guides are available, as well.

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 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.

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.

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