Washington, D.C. — Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), asking it to investigate 32 political donors for excessive contributions to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle. The complaint follows a Huffington Post report revealing these individuals contributed more than the biennial limit of $46,200 to federal candidates during 2011 and 2012, in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act and FEC regulations.
Read the complaint to the FEC
“Some campaign finance laws can be confusing, but the contribution limits are black and white,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Sophisticated donors don’t need legal counsel to tell them doubling, much less tripling, the limit is illegal.”
“For decades the Supreme Court and Congress have recognized contribution limits as a critical means of preventing corruption,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The FEC should move swiftly to investigate these seemingly blatant violations of federal law.”
Some of the overages are so high they seem unlikely to be accidental. For example, Jeffrey Hurt, the president of Diversified Resources, Inc., contributed $144,300 to federal candidates, more than three times the legal limit of $46,200 per election cycle. Following closely behind him is David Wallace, president and CEO of Wallace Electrical Systems, with $127,700, and John Canning, chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners, with $119,400. All contributed nearly exclusively to Republicans. The most significant Democratic over-contributor was trial lawyer Thomas Fay, who donated $97,450.
When confronted about their contributions, some donors claimed they mistakenly failed to attribute a contribution to a spouse. Yet Donald Simms, CEO of United Mining Company, donated $102,300, while his wife, Susan Simms, contributed $91,300. The Simms contributions went to Republican candidates.
The FEC isn’t likely to crack down hard on someone who mistakenly steps just over the contribution limits. Those who deliberately bound across the line, however, may find themselves in the crosshairs of the Department of Justice as knowing and willful violations of campaign finance law are subject to criminal prosecution. Sloan and Ryan agreed, “If the FEC expects anyone to adhere to contribution limits in the future, commissioners have no choice but to hold these donors accountable.”