News Releases, Media Advisories

For Immediate Release:                                                                Contact:  Ron Harris
October 1, 1999                                                                                                 Sharon Snyder
                                                                                                                              Ian Stirton
                                                                                                                              Kelly Huff



WASHINGTON – President Clinton Wednesday signed into law the FY2000 Treasury-Postal Appropriations legislation containing a budget of $38,152,000 for the Federal Election Commission for the coming fiscal year.

The provision addressing the FEC budget also includes legislative language that will amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, requiring electronic filing of campaign reports in the 2002 election cycle, establishing an administratively-imposed financial penalty system, and changing the aggregate reporting of information for candidate campaigns from calendar-year to campaign-cycle.

These changes to the FECA originated as legislative recommendations by the FEC, and were adopted, with modifications, by both Congressional chambers.

The mandatory electronic filing provision is effective for reporting periods after December 31, 2000, and applies to House campaigns, political party committees and PACs. Senate campaigns and the Senatorial committees of the national parties are exempted from the electronic filing provision because they file campaign finance reports directly with the Secretary of the Senate, who microfilms the paper reports and sends them to the FEC.

Filing campaign finance reports electronically has been voluntary to date. A total of 435 candidate committees, party committees, and PACs have voluntarily filed electronic reports in 1999. On November 13, 1998, regulations became effective specifying that if presidential candidates and their authorized committees have computerized their campaign finance records, they must agree to participate in the Commission’s electronic filing program as a condition of accepting federal funding.

On July 15 of this year, the FEC electronically received and processed over 6,000 pages of campaign reports from presidential committees, making those reports available to the public via the Internet almost instantaneously after receiving them. All reports received that day were on the FEC’s Website before midnight.

Administratively-imposed fines have been suggested to Congress by the FEC for some years. In a recommendation last year, the Commission noted:

"The enforcement procedures provide a number of procedural protections, and the Commission has no authority to impose penalties. Instead, the Commission can only seek a conciliation agreement, and without a settlement can only pursue...a civil action in federal court. This process can be unnecessarily time and resource consuming for all parties involved when applied to ministerial-type civil violations that are routinely treated via administrative fines by many other states and federal regulatory agencies."

Examples of violations that could be dealt with in an administrative penalty system include late filing or non-filing of required reports.

Legislative language authorizing administrative fines dictates that the Commission establish a schedule of penalties and publish it, taking into account "...the amount of the violation involved, the existence of previous violations by the person, and such other factors as the Commission considers appropriate."

The legislative recommendation on campaign-cycle reporting adopted by Congress in the appropriations bill requires candidate committees to report to the FEC on a campaign-to-date basis, rather than the present system of a calendar-year cycle. The calendar system has required additional efforts by campaign committees to begin aggregating donations anew each year. This change does not affect PACs and political party committees.

Federal Election Commission Chairman Scott E. Thomas commented, "I’m confident that these changes to the FECA, long advocated by the Commission, will be a boon to the filing community and to public disclosure in general. Also, with an administrative fine system, we can dispose of cases more rapidly and assign more of our resources to cases warranting greater attention."

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