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Obama Campaign Racks Up Large Legal Fees

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The election is long since over, but President Barack Obama’s campaign committee is still paying huge legal bills.

The lion’s share of Obama’s legal spending went to Perkins Coie, a well-known Democratic legal and accounting firm. Perkins Coie represented the Obama campaign during all seven of the FEC’s known investigations involving his White House bid. In each of these cases, the FEC voted to dismiss the case or found “no reason to believe” that the Obama for America or related committees had violated any laws.

Perkins Coie may be also representing Obama for America in the FEC’s pending investigation of a Republican National Committee complaint. A few weeks before the election, the RNC alleged that Obama’s campaign accepted donations from foreign nationals, received contributions that had exceed limits and submitted fictitious donor names to the agency. The status of this investigation is unknown, though the FEC confirmed it received the complaint.

Though the FEC has not penalized Obama, the president’s campaign has also paid more than $400,000 to the Treasury Department during the past two years for donations that were out of compliance with campaign finance rules.

This sum is not just the most of any campaign; it is greater than all other similar spending by House, presidential and political action committees put together during that time. The Obama campaign paid the Treasury Department $232,000 at the end of 2009 for “disgorgement of unverifiable contributors” and another $182,000 in June 2010 for “uncashed checks.”

“As with any campaign, we received certain contributions of the millions made overall which could not be accepted for legal reasons,” Sevugan said.  “We attempted to return all these contributions to the donors — as well as refunds to vendors for overpayments — but in some instances were unable to locate them.  In those cases we disgorged the funds to the Treasury rather than keep them.”

Others with large “disgorgement” checks to the Treasury during that period were the campaigns of former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney with $170,000 and McCain with $30,000.

The Obama campaign also leads all organizations when it comes to sending refunds to individual donors. Following the election, it has disclosed disbursement transactions totaling more than $5.7 million for refunds. Meanwhile, similar spending for Hillary Clinton for President totaled $2.7 million, while McCain’s campaign reported almost $2.8 million in refunds.

These large numbers of refunds and hefty sums to the federal Treasury are often signs of a campaign trying to come within compliance with election laws. The FEC has written 26 letters — totaling more than 1,500 pages — to the Obama campaign questioning its reports and outlining a flurry of compliance concerns.

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