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For Immediate Release
(Updated July 12, 2005*)
DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF NEW MEXICO TO PAY $60,000 PENALTY
WASHINGTON -- On April 29, 2005, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico signed a consent judgment reflecting an agreement between the Federal Election Commission and the Democratic Party of New Mexico. As part of this agreement the party and its treasurer will pay a civil penalty of $60,000 for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). The case is FEC v. Democratic Party of New Mexico, et al., Civil Action No. 02-0373.
The violations stem from a complaint regarding a 1997 special election held in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional district in which Eric Serna was the Democratic candidate. The party paid for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) communications for the special election using a combination of federal and non-federal funds, urging voters to vote Democratic. The party claimed they could pay some of the GOTV expenses with nonfederal funds because the communications were generic in that they did not mention the candidate. However, the Commission concluded that because Serna was the only Democratic candidate on the ballot the communications were express advocacy on behalf of the candidate and therefore had to be paid for using only federal funds.* In addition to the civil penalty the party was ordered to transfer $86,900 from its federal to its non-federal account.
The investigation also determined that the party had coordinated its GOTV communications with the Serna committee through extensive interactions between representatives of the two committees. As a result, the party made contributions to and coordinated expenditures on behalf of the Serna Committee in excess of the combined statutory limits. The party also failed to report these disbursements as coordinated expenditures as required by law.
Finally, the Serna committee violated federal election law by knowingly accepting direct and in-kind contributions from the party in excess of the statutory limits on contributions. The Court enjoined the Serna Committee and the party from committing similar violations in the future.
A copy of the consent judgment is available from the Commission’s Press Office at (202) 694-1220.
*The update now contains information about all respondents in this case.
*There are four administrative stages to the FEC enforcement process:
It requires the votes of at least four of the six Commissioners to take any action. The FEC can close a case at any point after reviewing a complaint. If a violation is found and conciliation cannot be reached, then the FEC can institute a civil court action against a respondent.
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**While these violations occurred before passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, it should be noted that the new statute imposes added restrictions on the financing of GOTV by state parties. As a result, it is now far less likely that the violations contained in this case would occur again.