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December 05, 2012

The FEC Blows it Again: Fails to Act Against Former SC Senate Candidate Alvin Greene

By Melanie Sloan

FEC logoMore than two years ago, CREW filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against then-Senate candidate Alvin M. Greene.  Mr. Greene, who has long since faded from public memory, had his 15 minutes of fame after he won the South Carolina Democratic Senate primary and challenged incumbent Republican Senator Jim DeMint.  Mr. Greene had no previous political experience or involvement and, in fact, had no discernible source of income.  Nevertheless, in March 2010 he had written a $10,000 check to cover the filing fees.

Read the FEC's response to CREW

CREW searched FEC records and discovered Mr. Greene’s campaign committee had failed to file any of the forms required in connection with a federal candidacy.  He had not registered with the FEC as a candidate or designated a principal campaign committee and he had not filed any financial disclosure reports.

This seemed like a fairly simple case, and the legal violations clear cut.  But the FEC never ceases to amaze us with its stunning inability to handle even seemingly uncontroversial matters. 

The FEC General Counsel’s Legal and Factual Analysis concluded that Mr. Greene had been a candidate under the law and had failed to file the required statement of organization and disclosure reports.  Therefore, in February 2011, the Commission found reason to believe Mr. Greene and his campaign committee violated campaign finance law.

After the investigation, the General Counsel concluded that although Mr. Greene and his campaign committee had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act, the evidence indicated he had raised and spent less than $15,000 on his campaign, that he was not involved with any spending by others on behalf of his candidacy, and that no third party had paid anyone working on his behalf.  Given the circumstances, the General Counsel recommended the Commission take no further action with regard to Mr. Greene and his campaign committee other than to issue a letter of caution to both, and close the file.

This seems like a pretty low-key, but rational, response to blatant legal violations by a major party candidate who ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate.  But when is the FEC rational?  For reasons that remain secret, the Commission was — as is so often the case — equally divided on whether to approve the recommendations and, as a result, simply closed the file on November 28, 2012.  It took the Commission over two years to do exactly nothing.  When will President Obama say enough is enough and finally appoint new commissioners?  We’re waiting.

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