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  • Weekly Digests

Week of March 25 – 29, 2019

March 29, 2019

Commission meetings and hearings

Advisory opinions

Advisory opinions issued

  • Advisory Opinion 2019-01 (It Starts Today). On March 28, the Commission approved an advisory opinion in response to a request from It Starts Today regarding a proposal to establish nominee and presumptive nominee funds that would accept contributions earmarked for candidates who receive the public endorsement of a specified endorsing organization. The Commission concluded that the proposal is permissible because the requestor would forward the contributions to the nominee or presumptive nominee only if an endorsement occurs by a specified date and otherwise would forward the contributions to a default recipient identified in the solicitation.
  • Advisory Opinion 2019-02 (Bill Nelson for Senate). On March 28, the Commission approved an advisory opinion in response to a request from Bill Nelson for Senate (the Committee) regarding the permissibility of donating excess funds from a recount fund that the Committee had collected. The Commission concluded that the Committee may donate excess recount funds to a charitable organization or transfer the funds to a national party committee’s separate, segregated account for election recounts, contests, and other legal proceedings. During the discussion the Commission heard from counsel for the requestor. The Commission received two comments on the draft.
  • Advisory Opinion 2019-03 (DC Libertarian Party). On March 28, the Commission approved an advisory opinion in response to a request from the DC Libertarian Party, concluding that the Party qualifies as a state committee of a political party. A state party organization affiliated with a national political party qualifies as a state committee of a political party if three criteria are met: (1) the national organization with which the state party organization is affiliated must itself qualify as a political party; (2) the state party organization must be part of the official structure of the national party; and (3) the state party organization must be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the national party at the state level.

Request received

  • Advisory Opinion Request 2019-06 (Leigh Brown). On March 25, 2019, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2019-06 from Leigh Brown, asking whether proposed radio advertisements will constitute electioneering communications. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than April 4) and must issue a response no later than 20 days after the receipt of the complete request, that is, by April 11, 2019.

Extension of time received

  • Advisory Opinion Request 2018-12 (Defending Digital Campaigns, Inc.). On March 22, the requestor granted an extension of time through April 15. Defending Digital Campaigns, Inc. has asked whether it or its private sector sponsors and partners may provide candidate and political party committees with certain free resources and training to protect those committees from cyberattack.
  • Advisory Opinion Request 2018-13 (OsiaNetwork LLC). On March 25, the requestor granted an extension of time through April 12. OsiaNetwork LLC has asked has asked whether individuals’ use of the processing power of their internet-enabled devices to mine cryptocurrency for the benefit of political committees is considered a volunteer activity under Commission regulations.

Enforcement

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

MUR 6658

  • COMPLAINANT: Maria Elena Farrell
  • RESPONDENTS: PBS Coals; Mepco, LLC; Oxford Mining Company, LLC; and Oxford Mining Company–Kentucky, LLC
  • SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that unknown respondents paid for and distributed yard signs in 2012 expressly advocating the defeat of presidential candidate Barack Obama without including the required disclaimers identifying who paid for the signs and whether they were authorized by a federal candidate or candidate’s committee.
  • DISPOSITION: On June 16, 2015, the Commission found reason to believe unknown respondents violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of the 1971, as amended (the Act) by failing to include the required disclaimers. On March 5, 2019, the Commission voted to add the four respondents’ names and to take no further action in the matter, other than to approve letters of caution to the respondents, and to close the file.

MUR 7302

  • COMPLAINANT: American Democracy Legal Fund
  • RESPONDENTS: Tom Campbell for North Dakota and Paul Kilgore, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Campbell Farms-Big Lake, LLP d/b/a Campbell Farms (Campbell Farms-Big Lake)
  • SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee failed to report an in-kind contribution from Campbell Farms-Big Lake in the form of a Committee campaign advertisement that featured a truck in the background bearing a Campbell Farms logo. The complaint alleged that the Committee should have, but did not, reported this as both the receipt of an in-kind contribution from Campbell Farms-Big Lake and as a disbursement associated with producing the advertisement.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegations in consideration of Commission priorities. The Commission noted that the value of the alleged in-kind contribution at issue was likely de minimis. The Commission reminded the Committee of the requirements connected with the statutory prohibition on contributions or expenditures by national banks, corporations or labor organizations.

MUR 7428

  • COMPLAINANT: Andrew Davis
  • RESPONDENTS: Matlock for Congress and Mark Hackney, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee); Matlock Tire Service, Inc. (Matlock Tire); James Matlock; Bingham Group, Inc.; Lisa Bingham; and Mark Hackney
  • SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Matlock impermissibly coordinated communications with his business, Matlock Tire, by promoting his candidacy through a common media vendor, Bingham Group, Inc., possibly resulting in a prohibited corporate in-kind contribution to the Committee. Matlock was a 2018 candidate for Tennessee’s 2nd Congressional District.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe the Committee or other respondents violated the Act because the ads at issue fall within the Commission’s safe harbor of the coordinated communication regulations. Specifically, the ads for Matlock Tire did not identify Matlock as a candidate or otherwise promote, attack, support, or oppose Matlock or any other federal candidate, and the ads were consistent with ads run by the business prior to Matlock’s candidacy.

MUR 7525

  • COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
  • RESPONDENTS: National Venture Capital Association VenturePAC and Jeff Farrah, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
  • SUBJECT: In the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee failed to provide information relating to disbursements corresponding to a $93,339.13 cash-on-hand adjustment on its Amended 2014 March Monthly Report.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement providing for the Committee to pay a civil penalty of $5,000.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

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

ADR 886

  • COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
  • RESPONDENT: Kelly for Congress and Fred Page, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
  • SUBJECT: In the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee accepted an excessive contribution from a loan guarantor totaling $49,900 and excessive contributions from individuals totaling $25,200. Mike Kelly was a 2018 candidate for reelection in Mississippi’s 1st Congressional District.
  • DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to certify that a Committee representative participated in an FEC conference, webinar, or other program developed in consultation with the FEC’s Information Division and to pay a civil penalty of $1,900.

ADR 887

  • COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
  • RESPONDENT: Brian Higgins for Congress and Holly Giarraputo, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
  • SUBJECT: In the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee received contributions in excess of the limit totaling $41,424. Higgins was a 2018 candidate for reelection in New York’s 26th Congressional District.
  • DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to retain an outside consultant to review its compliance procedures and conduct an on-site training with those responsible for preparing and filing its reports and to pay a civil penalty of $3,100.

ADR 888

  • COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
  • RESPONDENT: Marijuana Policy Project PAC and Don Murphy, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
  • SUBJECT: In the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether the Committee had failed to disclose all financial activity on its 2017 Mid-Year Report.
  • DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4,000, certify the closure of the committee’s federal account and file a termination report.

ADR 890

  • COMPLAINANT: Republican Party of Wisconsin and Mark Morgan, in his official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
  • RESPONDENT: Ewert for Congress and Sue Jackson, in her official capacity as treasurer
  • SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee failed to include a disclaimer on who paid for a publicly distributed brochure. Brian Ewert was a 2018 candidate for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District.
  • DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the matter due to the low-dollar amount at issue and identifying information found in the brochure.

Audits

  • Audit Division Recommendation Memorandum on Hall for Congress. On March 28, the Commission approved by tally vote an Audit Division Recommendation Memorandum on Hall for Congress, covering campaign finance activity between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2016. The memorandum discussed findings pertaining to receipt of contributions in excess of the limit and use of general election contributions for primary expenditures.
  • Audit Division Recommendation Memorandum on Jill Stein for President. On March 28, the Commission approved on tally vote an Audit Division Recommendation Memorandum on Jill Stein for President, covering campaign finance activity between January 17, 2015, and December 31, 2016. The memorandum discussed findings pertaining to a surplus of funds in connection with net outstanding campaign obligations, matching funds received in excess of entitlement, misstatement of financial activity, and disclosure of debts and obligations. In the memorandum, the Audit Staff recommended that the Commission reject Jill Stein for President’s proposal that the Commission delay making a repayment determination.

Litigation

  • CREW et al. v. FEC (Case No. 18-0076). On March 29, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order in CREW et al. v. FEC (Case No. 18-0076), granting the Commission’s motion for summary judgment and denying the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. In November 2017, the Commission did not pursue a complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleging that New Models, which was organized in 2000 and operated under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, had failed to register and report as a political committee in 2012. The District Court concluded that the decision by the controlling Commissioners to dismiss the matter, based in part on the age of the alleged activity and that the organization no longer appeared to be active, constituted an unreviewable invocation of prosecutorial discretion.

Outreach

On March 27, Commission staff hosted a compliance webinar for membership and labor organizations and their PACs.

Press releases

Commissioner statements

On March 28, Chair Ellen L. Weintraub issued a letter to the State of Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission.

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

  • April 15, 2019: April Quarterly reports are due. For more information on quarterly reporting dates, refer to the 2019 Quarterly Reporting page of the Commission website.
  • April 20, 2019: April 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 April 3, Commission staff will host a FECFile webinar for candidate committees.
  • On April 24, Commission staff will host a webinar for trade associations and their PACs.

Additional research materials

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.