The day after my last telephone call from the FEC, they sent a letter to Jill Stein For President’s (“JSFP“) committee accountant requesting numerous corrections to their 2016 end-of-year filing, as well as requesting evidence from the campaign in regards to their efforts in maintaining compliance with campaign finance laws regarding recount donations. The FEC added the letter electronically for public viewing, which can be found here. This letter confirms the substance of my phone call with the FEC where they told me they are continuing with the investigation and JSFP still has not responded to the initial complaint notification from the FEC, and other notices from the FEC regarding their campaign finance disclosure (see letter dated February 6th, 2017 here.)
I’ll be discussing the pertinence of this letter in regards to our complaint.
First, in the process of gathering evidence for our complaint to the FEC that JSFP accepted donations from people or organizations who are not legally permitted to donate to U.S. elections, we discovered the web form JSFP used to collect these donations did not require people to enter accurate identifying information (name, address, zip code, employer, occupation.)
By law, the FEC requires campaigns to collect this information for several purposes. One, to track how much money each individual donor contributes to a campaign to ensure they do not exceed the limit of $2,700 individually. And two, to ensure each donor is legally allowed to donate to U.S. elections as a U.S. citizen, or a non-citizen legally permitted in the U.S.
Our complaint alleges, with numerous examples as proof, that JSFP recklessly allowed people from all over the world to dump money into the recount fund, and then the campaign quickly used this money to create a near-Constitutional crisis. They did not take enough steps to ensure only Americans were influencing our election processes.
Excerpt from the letter informing JSFP of their failure in this matter:
3. Commission Regulations require that a committee discloses the identification of all individuals who contribute in excess of $200 in an election cycle. (11 CFR § 104.3(a)(4)(i)) Identification for an individual is defined as the full name (initials for first or last name are not acceptable), complete mailing address, occupation, and name of employer. (11 CFR § 100.12) Your report discloses contributions from individuals for which the identification is not complete.
The FEC is giving JSFP an opportunity to correct this:
You must provide the missing information, or if you are unable to do so, you must demonstrate that “best efforts” have been used to obtain the information. To establish “best efforts,” you must provide the Commission with a detailed description of your procedures for requesting the information. Establishing “best efforts” is a three-fold process. First, your original solicitation must include a clear and conspicuous request for the contributor information and must inform the contributor of the requirements of federal law for the reporting of such information. (11 CFR § 104.7(b)(1)) See 11 CFR § 104.7(b)(1)(B) for examples of acceptable statements regarding the requirements of federal law.
However, there was one important caveat to that:
Second, if the information is not provided, you must make one follow-up, stand alone effort to obtain this information, regardless of whether the contribution(s) was solicited or not. This effort must occur no later than 30 days after receipt of the contribution and may be in the form of a written request or an oral request documented in writing. (11 CFR § 104.7(b)(2)) The requests must:
In other words, JSFP had only 30 days by law to attempt to get correct identifying information for each of those donors. Since it is now March 4th, (or March 2nd by the date of the letter), this deadline is long past due, as JSFP ceased collecting recount donations on or about December 12th, to the best of my recollection (someone else can double-check this for me.) If, by chance, JSFP did as they were required by law and sent written requests for accurate information to the recount donors – but received no reply – then they are required to submit to the FEC any information that they do have, which would include credit card, debit card, and bank billing info of the donors. As noted in the below excerpt from the FEC’s “Campaign Guide” instructions for treasurers:
If the contributor does not respond to the followup request, but the committee possesses the information in its contributor records, fundraising records or prior reports filed during the same two-year election cycle, then the committee must use that information when disclosing the contribution. 104.7(b)(3).
This means that all those “Anonymous” or “John Doe” donations JSFP solicited electronically through social media mass marketing for the recount campaign will need to be reported to the FEC with credit/debit/bank billing information for the donors. We believe this will undoubtedly prove they accepted and used illegal donations for the recount.
Secondly, our collection of evidence discovered that JSFP’s web form solicitation did not adequately – or at all – inform donors that they are required by law to give proper, legal personal information with their donation. In the FEC’s letter, they directly advise JSFP that they must duly inform the donors of this requirement when collecting donor information.
• clearly ask for the missing information, without soliciting a contribution;
• inform the contributor of the requirements of federal law for the reporting of such information, and [underline emphasis mine]
• if the request is written, include a pre-addressed post card or return envelope.
Thirdly, JSFP improperly included the recount donations in the election-year total contributions to the campaign. This is a big no-no, as a “recount” campaign is separate from an election campaign and all monies collected must be used for and accounted for independent of the election campaign.
When JSFP submitted their post-general and end-of-year reports to the FEC (found here and here, respectively) they tallied all general election donations and recount donations together, and simply just reported to the FEC the recount donations as “unitemized donations” (unitemized simply means they did not individually report each donation with individual donor information).
In the letter, the FEC informed JSFP that these recount donations must be reported separately, as itemized donations:
– Please be advised that contributions to a recount fund should be itemized on Schedule A-P supporting Line 21 of the Detailed Summary Page. They should not be listed on Line 17(a)(i). (FEC Advisory Opinion 2006-24)
And finally, the FEC issued an ultimatum to JSFP that they must comply with the information request and records corrections, and no extensions will be permitted. Failure to comply may result in the FEC taking enforcement action against JSFP.
Please note you will not receive an additional notice from the Commission on this matter. Adequate responses received on or before this date will be taken into consideration. Requests for extensions of time in which to respond will not be considered. Failure to comply with the provisions of the Act may result in an enforcement action against the committee. Any response submitted by your committee will be placed on the public record and will be considered by the Commission prior to taking enforcement action.
My final thoughts: I’m really interested in seeing if JSFP spends the time and money to go through >$7 million worth of recount donations to gather and correct all the information they should have collected and reported in the first place. They have until April 6th, 2017 to respond, so we shall see!