DECEMBER 29, 2006
Campaign law violations were rampant in 2006 and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) more than doubled civil penalties against political committees and candidates, including New York Senator Hillary Clinton for concealing thousands of dollars in contributions.
The FEC imposed $6.2 million in fines this year and many of them were for past year violations because the commission failed to enforce its own laws in a timely manner. This was the case with Clinton, who in July was fined $35,000 because Judicial Watch filed a complaint detailing how the former first lady conveniently failed to report $721,895 in contributions from a 2000 fundraiser.
The largest penalty–$3.8 million–was against troubled federal mortgage broker Freddie Mack for making illegal contributions to political committees. Advocacy groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, MoveOn.org and the League of Conservation Voters paid a combined $603,000 for not filing disclosure reports and accepting contributions that exceeded the federal limit during the 2004 presidential campaign.
While FEC officials are patting themselves on the back for issuing the unprecedented penalties, critics point out that it does not reflect success but rather failure of law enforcement because they came years after the violations and represented a small portion of the tens of millions of dollars that were illegally spent in the 2004 presidential election.
This year the FEC processed nearly 80,000 financial filings totaling nearly 4 million pages that listed about $3 million in campaign spending. All of this year’s enforcement actions can be viewed at the agency’s web site.
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