Blog — Campaign Finance Reform

March 13, 2014

FEC Deadlocks, Dismisses Complaint Against Candidate Who Used Campaign Funds to Buy His Own Book

By Melanie Sloan

FECIn yet another case showing there is no set of facts that will persuade Republican FEC commissioners to enforce campaign finance law, the Commission dismissed a complaint against former Florida Republican congressional candidate Todd Long for converting campaign funds to personal use by using campaign funds to buy copies of his book from his vanity publisher.

Mr. Long filed a one-page unsworn response to the complaint that merely said he did not profit from the campaign’s purchase of his book. He did not provide a copy of his contract with the vanity publisher.

The FEC General Counsel’s Office didn’t buy it.  The First General Counsel’s Report concluded: 

[B]ecause the responses and other available materials exclude basic key facts, including the specific provisions of the contract and the terms of the campaign’s book purchases, we are unable to assess whether those purchases financially benefited Long, either through the direct receipt of royalties or by increasing or escalating the royalty calculation that would inure to Long personally based on future sales.  Under these circumstances, there is reason to believe that the campaign’s book purchases and payments to distribute the books, even if separate from the purchases required of Long under the terms of the contract, constituted a prohibited personal use [footnote omitted].  For these reasons we recommend that the Commission find reason to believe that Long and the 2012 Committee violated 2 U.S.C. 439a(b) and 11 C.F.R. 113.1(g) by converting campaign funds to personal use.  [First General Counsel’s Report at 13-14.]

As a result, the General Counsel recommended that the Commission authorize an investigation.

As usual, however, the Commission deadlocked 3-3, with the three Democratic FEC commissioners voting in favor of authorizing an investigation and the three Republican commissioners voting against it.  One of the Democratic commissioners, Ann Ravel, then voted with the three Republican commissioners to dismiss the case on the basis “that further enforcement action would not be an efficient use of the Commission’s resources.”  Commissioner Ravel knew better than to waste any more time trying to persuade her Republican colleagues that enforcing the law is part of their job.

You can read the FEC Factual and Legal Analysis for yourself here.

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