Skip to comments.FEC may audit Common Cause head for breaches
Posted on 04/30/2003 3:14:58 PM PDT by Jean S
Campaign fundraising reports for Chellie Pingree, a former Democratic Senate candidate form Maine who now heads Common Cause, contain numerous infractions that may prompt an audit by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), The Hill has learned.
The prospect of an election commission audit of Pingree has raised eyebrows among campaign finance experts and lawyers because the well-known government watchdog group spearheaded the passage of the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act last year.
In fact, campaign finance regulation has become Common Cause's signature issue in recent years. Pingree, who last year lost her bid to oust Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), became president and CEO of the group in February.
Last year, the FEC sent Pingree's campaign 11 requests for additional information relating to a range of problems on six reports: three quarterly reports, two pre-election reports, and a 2001 year-end report.
In response, Pingree amended four of the reports but she failed to file an amendment for her July 2002 quarterly and pre-primary reports. In addition, the four amended reports she filed were received by the FEC after the deadlines it set for "adequate responses." In two instances, the amendments were months late.
"Common Cause is dedicated to honest, open, and accountable government," said the group's spokeswoman, Mary Boyle. "I'm sure Chellie wants to see all these requests for information responded."
Boyle declined further comment, saying the issue related to Pingree's campaign rather than to Common Cause.
The commission found the following infractions listed in Pingree's reports: accepting contributions exceeding federal limits; accepting contributions over $1,000 from political committees not qualified to give such contributions; failure to properly report "bundled" contributions from outside groups; and failure to properly report donors' aggregate totals.
The FEC pointed to these inconsistencies in requests for additional information, often following up the notices with secondary requests for information that contained deadlines for responding.
Additional requests for information routinely note: "Adequate responses received on or before [the deadline] will be taken into consideration in determining whether audit action will be initiated… . Failure to provide an adequate response by this date may result in an audit of the committee. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Act may also result in an enforcement action against the committee."
"The Pingree campaign was awfully meticulous," said campaign manager Deborah Reed.
"It appears these were two routine requests and two oversights on the part of the campaign," she added, referring to mistaken reports the campaign failed to amend. "I'm very upset of the oversights. The Pingree campaign will be providing information immediately to the FEC regarding those two reports."
Election law experts said failure to respond in time to numerous requests for information often triggers an FEC audit.
"I've always told my clients to beat that second notice or we're going to be in for a heap of problems," said Kirk Jowers, an election lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale, a Washington-based law firm. "The second notice [for additional information], we've always interpreted it as you have to get [your response] in by then."
Jowers said a campaign that failed to meet the deadline "would be seen as a likely target."
"We've always found the most likely candidates for audits were people who pile up a lot of letters in a short amount of time, as she obviously did," he added.
Unlike the Internal Revenue Service, the FEC does not conduct random audits. It audits only for cause.
Pingree's campaign treasurer Daniel Crewe said he wasn't aware that the campaign had either failed to respond or responded late to the 11 requests for information. "The mechanics of preparing these reports was done by an accountant that was hired and paid staff," he said. "I would sign the reports [with] hopefully proper accounts."
Crewe referred questions to the campaign's accountant, Mark Cerabona, who did not return a request for comment.
Public records show that in February 2002, John Gibson, an FEC analyst, sent Pingree a mailgram alerting Crewe that the campaign failed to file an amended 2001 year-end report, which could result in "civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action."
Larry Noble, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, and a former general counsel at the FEC, declined to predict whether there would be an audit of Pingree's campaign.
"Those are the types of things that could trigger an audit," Noble said, referring to the repeated requests for additional information. "What the commission looks at is the nature of the omissions and also whether you are late in responding to the [requests for information]."
Noble said he could not comment more specifically on the audit threshold because the commission keeps it a secret.
Campaign fundraising reports are reviewed by the FEC's Reports Analysis Division, said commission spokesman Ian Stirton.
Oh. breaches ...
Speaking of Pingree:
9/23/2010, 4:35:11 PM · by fight_truth_decay · 27 replies
Maine Republican Victory Campaign FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 23, 2010 | Lance Dutson FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Speaking of Pingree’s pal Sussman...
Why did Clinton/DNC need attorney-client privilege for Trump Dossier?
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