OFA Agrees To Large Fine For 2008 FEC Violations

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After an extensive audit of Obama for America's 2008 campaign disclosures, the FEC and OFA have agreed to settle the specific complaints with a $375,000 fine, one of the largest in campaign finance history.

The RNC released the settlement agreement to Politico last week. Here are the violations they settled:

  1. Misreported dates of contributions: The Obama Victory Fund transferred $89 million in contributions to OFA, which OFA reported. However, OFA used the date of transfer from OVF in their FEC reports instead of the date the actual contributions were made.
  2. Contributions Required to Be Reported on 48-hour notices: Campaigns are required to report contributions made in excess of $1,000 which are received less than 20 days but more than 48 hours before an election. There were 1,266 contributions received by the campaign which totalled $1,895,956 in that time frame which were not reported on a 48-hour notice. Of the 1,266 contributions received, 711 of them were transfers from OVF, presumably with the incorrect date, which exacerbated the problem. The fine for that was $191,135 and was paid in full.
  3. Excessive contributions Contributions were received which totalled $1,363,529 and were from individuals who had already contributed the maximum. Of those, the campaign refunded nearly $500,000 upon discovery, and the FEC discovered the remaining contributions on audit, which they will now refund to donors. If the donors cannot be located or don't cash the refund check, the funds will revert to the US Treasury.

As a strict matter of legal compliance, these are serious violations and presumably were corrected by the time the 2012 campaign finance cycle rolled around. I say presumably because I do not see the same inquiries in 2012 that I saw for the 2008 reports. In fairness to OFA, they overwhelmed the FEC electronic filing system because of all of the small donors. Reports had to be broken into smaller pieces because they were too large for the system, the universe of small donors stretched across OVF and OFA, and were difficult to track with existing database technologies in 2008. In 2012, that should not be the case.

One other point worth making: It was the required disclosure process that revealed these issues, and the resolution process that resolved them. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republican fundraising efforts, since they're done outside of FEC oversight and without any disclosure.

Still, this is certainly a learning exercise in managing campaign finances, and one that should be taken seriously by OFA and all organizations raising money for candidates.

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