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FEC Has Many Queries for Members

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Rep. Henry Cuellar has received 63 letters from the FEC since 2003 questioning his campaign finance reports, which is more than any other Member.

“The majority of requests for additional information occurred during years when my campaign was using FEC-approved software which had a hidden flaw causing recurrent errors,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said in an e-mail. He has received 42 letters since 2003.

“Once this software problem was identified, we changed software and since then have had minimal requests for additional information (such as father and son having same name), each of which has been readily complied with.”

While some lawmakers discussed extenuating circumstances, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett did not defer any blame for his campaign finance issues.

“I take full responsibility for my campaigns,” said the Maryland Republican, whose 49 FEC letters since 2003 rank
as the second-most among federal lawmakers. “I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m honest and I’ve got the audit to prove it.”

Following notifications questioning Bartlett about disbursements, disparities in cash on hand, and even the failure to file a pre-primary report, the FEC audited his 2008 campaign. The recently released audit found 21 unreported transactions but no intentional wrongdoing.

Some Congressional staffers explained away the frequency of the FEC’s questions.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel’s staff said all of the agency’s 44 letters on issues ranging from disclosure of debts to reimbursements have been answered by amendments filed by the campaign.

“These sorts of commission requests are very common, and the FEC has been satisfied with the campaign’s responses,” said Lindsay Hamilton, the New York Representative’s communications director. “The campaign received only three letters during the 2010 cycle on minor questions and responded to each of them.”

It is not just individual campaigns that receive questions from the FEC. Including political action committees, joint fundraising committees and other campaign entities, the commission has sent out 48,000 requests for clarification in the past seven years.

“That is an alarming number,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen who monitors campaign finance laws. “When there are that many letters, it also strongly suggests that there are a lot of problems going on.”

Leading the way was the Republican Party of Minnesota with 153 letters since 2003.

“We went through a couple different accounting people and they frankly made mistakes in our reports,” state party Chairman Tony Sutton said. “It was kind of a headache to go through all of that but we fixed those mistakes and hopefully it is all behind us.”

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