January 27, 2014

Last Week at the FEC: Extension of the Administrative Fine Program

Holland & Knight Political Law Blog
Andrew H. Emerson

Last week the Federal Election Commission did not meet, but released a final rule extending its Administrative Fine Program, which was reauthorized by Congress on December 26, 2013.

The Commission also released a public Advisory Opinion Request, AOR 2014-1, regarding use of unreported funds remaining in the account of a predecessor committee, as well as a final Audit Report alleging misstatements by the Caesars Entertainment Corporation Political Action Committee (CECPAC) regarding its financial activities in 2011 and 2012.

The Administrative Fine Program

In 2000, Congress authorized the Commission to assess civil penalties (fines), based on a published schedule, for violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, as amended (FECA), involving a political committee’s failure to file a report, filing a report late, or failing to file required 48-hour notices. This system allows a committee to use the Commission’s online Administrative Fine Calculator to determine their potential liability for non-compliance, and is intended to prompt self-disclosure by non-compliant committees.

Congress has regularly extended this program, which is incorporated into statute at 52 U.S.C. 437G, and did so again on December 26th, renewing the program until December 31, 2018. While this new rule was largely intended simply as an extension of the program, it did make one administrative change by eliminating 11 C.F.R 111.41, which previously required administrative fines to be paid by check or money order. The Commission’s notice of rulemaking suggests that this provision was eliminated so that the Commission may allow for payment of such fines via credit card or other means.

The Commission adopted its final rule without providing time for notice and comment, instead finding that the “good cause exemption” of the Administrative Procedures Act applied because it would be “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest” to take the time necessary to review and respond to comments. Additional information regarding how this program works, including sample scenarios and calculations, can be found on the Commission’s webpage.

Meeting Schedule

The Commission is scheduled to meet in executive session on Tuesday, January 28th, when it will discuss undisclosed enforcement matters. The Commission will also meet in open session on Thursday, January 30th, when it is scheduled to discuss Audit Committee Recommendations regarding the Dallas County Republican Party and the Republican Party of Iowa, which were tabled for future consideration two weeks ago.

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