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Monday, November 19, 2007

Formal Complaint Filed Regarding Reichert's FEC Filings

It was only yesterday that I was again asking about Reichert's fundraising inconsistencies, and musing about the fact no formal complaint had been filed.

Well no longer.

The Washington State Democratic Party today has filed just such a complaint that pretty much covers all the issues I have previously been writing about, plus an additional concern regarding the over limit contributions of an individual donor.

Here is the press release in full (all emphasis as in the release):
Washington State Democrats File Complaint Regarding Bush Fundraiser for Congressman Dave Reichert

SEATTLE– The Washington State Democratic Party today filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission regarding serious violations of election law by Congressman Dave Reichert.

On August 27, 2007, President Bush held a $1,000 a head fundraiser in Bellevue on behalf of Congressman Reichert, the proceeds of which were supposed to be placed into a special joint account that would then be divided between the Reichert campaign and the Washington State Republican Party. Instead, much of the money appears to have been deposited directly in Congressman Reichert’s campaign account, a serious violation of FEC rules. The Reichert campaign has also failed to refund at least one contribution in excess of the $4,600 campaign contribution limit for individual donors.

“One of two things is going on here: either Dave Reichert and his campaign staff are incompetent or they initiated a deliberate effort to mislead the public about their disastrous fundraising in recent months,” Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz said.

Because of these gross campaign finance and reporting violations, the amount actually raised at the fundraiser continues to be mystery. The Reichert campaign initially told the press that more than $500,000 had been raised at the event. After filing their third quarter FEC fundraising report in October, a Reichert spokesman claimed the event has raised $230,000 for Congressman Reichert. After much speculation into the accuracy of these numbers, that figure was then claimed to be $185,000. None of those numbers, however, appear in the Reichert filing, which states that the joint fundraiser raised $135,000.

The Reichert campaign also misled the public by claiming to have raised more money in the third quarter than Democratic challenger Darcy Burner. Days later, as their FEC filing came under scrutiny, Reichert chief of staff Mike Shields admitted that the campaign had actually raised less in the third quarter than Burner, despite the benefit of a fundraising visit from the president.

Moreover, the complaint filed today points out suspicious activity surrounding the donations of Reichert contributor Lee Ann Farrell. According to the Reichert filing, Farrell was refunded $8,400 in late September, several days before registering a check from her related to the Bush fundraiser. After carefully scrutinizing Farrell’s contribution history to the campaign, it is evident that she has contributed $1,000 over the limit for individual campaign contributions.

Despite all of the questions raised about the Reichert filing, the Friends of Dave Reichert campaign has made no effort to submit a revised filing correcting the errors, nor has there been any indication that the excess donation by Farrell was refunded.

“Given that Congressman Reichert can’t even manage and properly account for the money he’s raising for his reelection bid, the public has zero reason to trust him to provide oversight over the federal budget or the out-of-control spending on the Iraq fiasco,” Pelz said. “The 8th Congressional District needs real representation in Washington, D.C., not just someone who looks good playing the part on TV.”
And here is the formal complaint in full (all emphasis as in the complaint) :
This complaint asserts that Congressman Dave Reichert, his principal campaign committee, Friends of Dave Reichert (the "Reichert Campaign"), the Washington State Republican Party, and the Reichert Washington Victory Committee (collectively, the "Joint Fundraising Respondents"), have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (the "Act"), 2 U.S.C. §§ 431 et seq., and related regulations of the Federal Election Commission ("FEC" or the "Commission"), 11 C.F.R. §§ 100.1 et seq. Specifically, the Joint Fundraising Respondents have violated the law by failing to comply with the rules for conducting joint fundraising activities, as set forth in 11 C.F.R. § 102.17. In addition, based on the Reichert Campaign's FEC reports, the Reichert Campaign has also violated the law by accepting excessive contributions from Lee Ann Farrell.

The violations of the Act by the Joint Fundraising Respondents arose in connection with an August 27, 2007 joint fundraising event "featuring President George W. Bush honoring Congressman Dave Reichert" (the "Bush-Reichert Event"). The solicitation for the Bush-Reichert event offered tickets to a "VIP Reception" if the donor contributed $10,000, or raised the equivalent amount from other contributors. This VIP ticket would entitle its holder to a "photo opportunity." For those who did not qualify for a ticket to the VIP Reception, a regular "Attendee" ticket could be purchased for $1,000. See Exhibit A.

Because the Bush-Reichert Event was to raise funds for both the Reichert Campaign and the Washington State Republican Party, both committees were required to raise and spend funds for the Bush-Reichert Event through a joint fundraising committee established for that purpose (the Reichert Washington Victory Committee), and to comply with the accounting and disclosure requirements set forth in 11 C.F.R. § 102.17. As questions from bloggers and others arose about the accuracy of information released to the public about the funds raised at the Bush-Reichert Event and the propriety of the procedures followed in raising those funds, the Reichert Campaign released a statement acknowledging that some of the funds raised for the Bush-Reichert Event were handled in violation of 11 C.F.R. § 102.17(c). See Exhibit B. The Reichert Campaign did not, however, acknowledge at least one other apparent violation of 11 C.F.R. § 102.17(c). The Reichert Campaign admits to raising funds at the Bush-Reichert Event of at least 25% greater than reported by the joint committee established, and required by law to receive all contributions associated with the Bush-Reichert Event - Reichert Washington Victory Committee. Compare Exhibits C and D.

By failing to comply with the joint fundraising procedures mandated by Commission regulations, and by releasing information to the public about the Bush-Reichert Event that could not be squared with the Reichert Campaign's FEC reports and which raised significant doubts about the completeness and accuracy of disclosure by the Reichert Washington Victory Committee, the Joint Fundraising Respondents have undercut one of the main purposes of the Act: namely, to ensure that the public has accurate, timely information about the sources of funds to its elected officials and candidates. Incumbents and party officials who hold a fundraising event that features the country's highest elected official should be no less bound by the law than those who, while considerably less seasoned, must still learn the intricacies of the Act and Commission regulations.

For these reasons, the Commission should immediately investigate the procedures that were followed in conducting the Bush-Reichert Event and ensure that the public has a clear, accurate account of the money trail, which has otherwise been obscured by violations of the Commission's joint fundraising procedures. In the event these violations by the Joint Fundraising Respondents prove to be indicative of more systemic, widespread mismanagement of financial resources by the Reichert Campaign and the other Joint Fundraising Respondents, the Commission should seek the highest civil penalties available under the law, and take whatever other action it deems necessary or appropriate under the law.

As a final matter, the Reichert Campaign's FEC reports reveal contributions from Lee Ann Farrell that exceed the contribution limits of the Act. See Exhibit E. As a federal officeholder and candidate, Congressman Reichert and his campaign are prohibited from soliciting or receiving funds "in connection with an election for Federal office ... unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of the Act." 2 U.S.C. § 441i(e) (emphasis added). The Commission should immediately enforce the contribution limits of the Act and require Congressman Reichert and his campaign to cease and desist from raising soft money from Ms. Farrell or other donors.
These things take many months to resolve, but this won't be the first time the FEC has scrutinized the Reichert campaign's fundraising reports. Yes, that's what the FEC does for all campaigns, but it does seem that the Reichert campaign is having to explain itself more than others. Since March alone there have been three responses documented to FEC letters for clarification on Friends of Dave Reichert fundraising reports. This complaint, however, addresses reporting violations of a much more significant nature, and regarding a very high profile event with the President of the United States of America. I would hope the FEC scrutinizes it with a level of attention commensurate with that high profile.

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