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  • Weekly Digests

Week of October 4-8, 2021

October 8, 2021

Commission meetings and hearings

No open meetings or executive sessions were scheduled this week.

Advisory Opinions

Requests Received

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-11 (DSCC and DCCC) On October 5, the Commission made public an advisory opinion request from the DSCC and DCCC, national political party committees. The requestors asks whether short code text messages sent by the committees are “public communications” for purposes of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), and Commission regulations. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than October 15) and must issue a response no later than 60 days after the receipt of the complete request, that is, by December 3, 2021.

Advisory Opinion Request 2021-12 (Congressman Adam Schiff and Schiff for Congress) On October 7, the Commission made public an advisory opinion request from Congressman Adam Schiff and Schiff for Congress (the Committee). In the request, Congressman Schiff and the Committee present alternative proposals for renting the Committee’s email list in connection with promoting a book written by Congressman Schiff. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than October 18) and must issue a response no later than 60 days after the receipt of the complete request, that is, by December 6, 2021.

Enforcement

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

MURs 7165 and 7196

COMPLAINANTS: Campaign Legal Center; and American Democracy Legal Fund
RESPONDENTS: Great America PAC and Dan Backer, in his official capacity as treasurer (GAP); Eric Beach; and Jesse Benton
SUBJECT: The complaints in these matters alleged that GAP, as well as Beach and Benton, GAP’s former co-chair and a political consultant, respectively, knowingly and willfully solicited a contribution from a foreign national in violation of the Act and Commission regulations. The complaints based these allegations on an October 2016 article that appeared on The Telegraph UK’s website, which chronicled how two reporters posed as consultants for a fictitious Chinese donor and discussed a series of transactions with Beach and Benton that would allow the donor to indirectly contribute $2 million to GAP.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found reason to believe that GAP knowingly and willfully violated the Act and Commission regulations by soliciting a contribution from a foreign national, and entered into a conciliation agreement providing for GAP 1) to agree not to further contest the Commission’s finding that GAP, through Benton’s actions on its behalf, violated the Act and Commission regulations by knowingly soliciting a contribution from a foreign national; and 2) to pay a civil penalty of $25,000. The Commission found reason to believe that Benton knowingly and willfully violated the Act and Commission regulations by soliciting a foreign national. The Commission did not, however, vote to find probable cause, and it voted to close the file with respect to Benton. The Commission voted to take no action and close the file with respect to Beach. Chair Shana M. Broussard and Commissioners Steven T. Walther and Ellen L. Weintraub and Commissioner Sean J. Cooksey issued Statements of Reasons.

MUR 7390

COMPLAINANT: Claudia Barber
RESPONDENTS: Donald J. Trump; Make America Great Again PAC f/k/a Donald J. Trump for President and Bradley T. Crate, in his official capacity as treasurer (Trump Committee); and Republican National Committee and Ronald C. Kaufman, in his official capacity as treasurer (RNC)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Trump Committee engaged in “misuse of campaign funds” by paying attorneys to represent the Trump Committee and Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., in connection with the Department of Justice investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election. The complaint further alleged that the RNC, a national party committee, also engaged in misuse of committee funds by paying attorneys who represented Trump and Trump Jr. in connection with the Russia investigation.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found no reason to believe that Trump or the Trump Committee violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), by impermissibly converting campaign funds to personal use. The Commission observed that the Trump Committee appeared to be permitted to make the payments for legal expenses relating to Department of Justice and Congressional investigations of Russian election interference raised by the complaint because these payments were for expenses that would not exist irrespective of campaign activities, and thus did not result in the conversion of campaign funds to personal use. The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegation that the RNC made prohibited expenditures. The Commission observed that the RNC used its separate segregated account that the Act permits for “election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings,” and disclosed the payments on its FEC reports with “Legal and Compliance Services” listed as the purpose and “Legal Proceedings Account” indicated on the memo line. The Commission further noted that it has yet to provide regulatory guidance on the scope of permissible uses of these types of accounts or the effect of payments from these accounts.

MUR 7803

COMPLAINANT: Maine Democratic Party
RESPONDENTS: Susan Collins, and Collins for Senator and Elizabeth McCandless, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Collins, a 2020 candidate for Maine’s U.S. Senate seat, and the Committee failed to disclose certain contributions to the Committee as having been earmarked and bundled through the National Association of Broadcasters Political Action Committee (NABPAC), a lobbyist/registrant PAC, in violation of the Act.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegations. The Commission observed that while the Committee originally failed to properly disclose contributions that were earmarked through NABPAC, the amounts at issue were modest and the Committee filed amended disclosure reports to clarify the public record.

MUR 7902

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENTS: Michigan Democratic State Central Committee and Traci Kornak, in her official capacity as treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether there was reason to believe that in calendar year 2018 the Committee 1) accepted $42,479.38 in excessive contributions, 2) accepted a $5,000 prohibited contribution, and 3) failed to properly itemize $78,000 in joint fundraising receipts.
DISPOSITION: The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement providing for 1) the treasurer of the Committee or other personnel responsible for complying with the Act and Commission regulations to attend a Commission-sponsored regional conference within 12 months; and 2) the Committee to pay a civil penalty of $19,000. The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegation that the Committee accepted a $5,000 prohibited contribution. The Commission observed the modest amount at issue and that the Committee refunded the contribution.

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 1023

COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
RESPONDENT: Rural Colorado United and George Autobee, Treasurer (the Committee)
SUBJECT: In the normal course of exercising its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission initiated proceedings to determine whether there was reason to believe that the Committee failed to timely file two 48-Hour Reports totaling $76,401.99 to support 17 independent expenditures originally disclosed on its 2020 October Quarterly Report.
DISPOSITION: The Committee agreed to 1) certify that a representative participated in an FEC training program, 2) develop and certify implementation of a compliance operations manual which includes internal controls, and 3) pay a civil penalty of $3,800.

Litigation

End Citizens United PAC v. FEC (Case No. 21-2128) On October 5, the Commission made public a Vote Certification.

Regulations and agency procedures

REG 2021-02 (Subvendor Reporting) The Commission has made public comments on the Commission’s Notification of Availability in the Federal Register that sought public comment on a petition for rulemaking filed by the Campaign Legal Center and the Center on Science & Technology Policy at Duke University. The petitioners ask the Commission to amend its existing regulations to require political committees and persons who make independent expenditures and electioneering communications to itemize all expenditures or disbursements made on behalf of the reporting entity, including those made by an agent, independent contractor, vendor, or subvendor.

Public Disclosure

On October 7, the Commission’s Office of the Inspector General made public its Fiscal Year 2022 Work Plan.

Outreach

On October 6, the Commission hosted a virtual conference preview webinar.

On October 7, Public Affairs Specialist Myles Martin spoke with journalism students at The George Washington University via Zoom about the Commission’s role and disclosure systems.

Upcoming educational programs

October 27, 2021: The Commission will host Candidate 101: Getting Started, an introduction to the campaign finance laws and regulations that apply to federal candidates and campaigns, covering topics such as candidate registration, treasurer responsibilities, contribution limits and prohibitions, and basic reporting requirements.

For more information on upcoming training opportunities, see the Commission’s Trainings page.

Upcoming Commission meetings

October 13, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session.

October 14, 2021: The Commission is scheduled to hold an open meeting.

Upcoming reporting due dates

October 15: October Quarterly Reports are due. For more information, see the 2021 Quarterly Reporting schedule.

October 20: October Monthly Reports are due. For more information, see the 2021 Monthly Reporting schedule.

Status of agency operations

See the Commission’s statement on the status of agency operations, updated on April 15, 2021. At this stage, most agency staff remain in telework status and the Commission’s office remains closed to visitors. See also the agency’s Workplace Safety Plan, dated May 6, 2021.

Additional research materials

Contribution Limits. In addition to the current limits, the Commission has posted an archive of contribution limits that were in effect going back to the 1975-1976 election cycles.

2020 Presidential General Election Results and Federal Elections 2018: Election Results for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are available. The data was compiled from the official vote totals published by state election offices.

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.

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.

Other election-related resources

Videos on protecting U.S. elections. The FBI’s Protected Voices initiative provides videos designed to help political campaigns protect themselves from foreign influence. The 2019 videos offer guidance on ransomware, business email compromise, supply chain, social media literacy, and foreign influence operations. Other videos, released in 2018, include cyber hygiene topics such as social engineering, patching, router hardening, and app and browser safety.

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 currently. The use of the agency’s logo, name, and likeness on other media has not been authorized by the FEC.