Campaign Finance Law Violations
Knowingly submitting false campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission is a federal offense. Prosecutors could use a wide range of federal statutes to indict someone.
Sometimes, the government will file charges of false campaign disclosure form as a violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001, which is the law prohibiting materially false statements within the jurisdiction of any federal agency.
However, a more common statute is usually found within 52 U.S. Code Subchapter I, Disclosure of Federal Campaign Funds, which outlines many different federal laws, including Section 30104 reporting requirements.
Some laws make it a crime to knowingly and willfully accept or receive contributions over the limits of the Election Act. Suppose two or more persons conspire to violate the law. In that case, prosecutors could file charges under 18 U.S.C. 371, the general conspiracy statute.
There are some state campaign disclosure law violations where federal monies or federal grants were implicated. In such a case, prosecutors might use the 18 U.S.C. 1957 money laundering statute, which prohibits spending over $10,000 where the source of the funds can't be determined from the financial transactions.
In some cases, the creative use of money orders or even cash deposits is primarily designed to conceal the identity of the owner of the funds.
Most cases involving campaign financial disclosure laws and election law crimes involve a conspiracy to conceal the amount of donations or the identity of the donors, mainly where large amounts of money more than spending limits occur.
Federal campaign finance laws regulate fundraising for political candidates and their action committees. Thus, any activity considered campaign finance fraud can be prosecuted. Let's review these federal laws below.
What Are the Campaign Finance Laws?
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) in 1971 put campaign finance laws in place, and it created the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to enforce these laws. 52 U.S. Code Chapter 301 Federal Election Campaigns list numerous related laws.
Many of the FECA statutes are codified in 52 U.S. Code Subchapter I, Disclosure of Federal Campaign Funds, which has several laws about voting and elections:
- 52 U.S.C. 30101 - Definitions;
- 52 U.S.C. 30102 - Organization of political committees;
- 52 U.S.C. 30103 - Registration of political committees;
- 52 U.S.C. 30104 - Reporting requirements;
- 52 U.S.C. 30105 - Reports on convention financing;
- 52 U.S.C. 30106 - Federal Election Commission;
- 52 U.S.C. 30107 - Powers of Commission;
- 52 U.S.C. 30108 - Advisory opinions;
- 52 U.S.C. 30109 - Enforcement;
- 52 U.S.C. 30110 - Judicial review;
- 52 U.S.C. 30111 - Administrative provisions;
- 52 U.S.C. 30112 - Maintenance of the website of election reports;
- 52 U.S.C. 30113 - Statements filed with State officers; “appropriate State” defined; duties of officers; waiver of duplicate filing requirement for States with electronic access;
- 52 U.S.C. 30114 - Use of contributed amounts for specific purposes. It defines how contributions may be spent and says candidates may only spend contribution funds on campaign-related expenses;
- 52 U.S.C. 30115 - Authorization of appropriations;
- 52 U.S.C. 30116 - Limitations on contributions and expenditures law defines the federal crime of willfully accepting money that exceeds the limits;
- 52 U.S.C. 30117 - Modification of certain limits for House candidates in response to personal fund expenditures of opponents;
- 52 U.S.C. 30118 - Contributions or expenditures by national banks, corporations, or labor organizations;
- 52 U.S.C. 30119 - Contributions by Government contractors;
- 52 U.S.C. 30120 - Publication and distribution of statements and solicitations;
- 52 U.S.C. 30121 - Contributions and donations by foreign nationals;
- 52 U.S.C. 30122 - Contributions in the name of another prohibited;
- 52 U.S.C. 30123 - Limitation on the contribution of currency;
- 52 U.S.C. 30124 - Fraudulent misrepresentation of campaign authority;
- 52 U.S.C. 30125 - Soft money of political parties;
- 52 U.S.C. 30126 - Prohibition of contributions by minors.
52 U.S. Code Subchapter II – General Provisions has the following federal statutes:
- 52 U.S.C. 30141 - Extension of credit by regulated industries; regulations;
- 52 U.S.C. 30142 - Using certain Federal funds for election activities;
- 52 U.S.C. 30143 - State laws affected;
- 52 U.S.C. 30144 - Partial invalidity;
- 52 U.S.C. 30145 - Period of limitations;
- 52 U.S.C. 30146 - Collection and use of conference fees
Campaign Finance Laws – Quick Facts
- Some of these provisions describe who may and may not organize a political committee, rules on how a committee functions;
- FECA enforcement proceedings can be civil or criminal for willful violations;
- The FECA allows for forming PACs and Super PACs in addition to candidate and party committees;
- Section 30102 says they must have a treasurer to keep detailed records of all contributions and disbursements;
- Section 30116 law limits contributions to an individual candidate to $ 2,000 yearly, while contributions to political parties can reach $25,000 annually.
- Prison sentences for a criminal violation range from one to five years in federal prison, along with hefty fines;
- Civil violations include fines, restitution, and being barred from engaging in any campaign activity;
- Violating campaign financial disclosure laws often occurs in a conspiracy to conceal the amount of donations or to hide the identity of the donors;
- Some people will use money orders or cash deposits to conceal the true identity of the fund's owner.
- Improper use of political campaign contributions might result in an IRS investigation and charges under 26 U.S.C. 7201 tax evasion;
- Some violations could be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 1341 mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 wire fraud, or 18 U.S.C. 1957 money laundering;
- The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) deals with criminal prosecutions of campaign finance law.
Some of the common violations of the federal campaign finance laws include the following:
- Failing to record contributions or expenses correctly;
- Maintaining too much petty cash; and
- Mentioning a particular candidate in a Super PAC ad.
What Are the Campaign Finance Violation Procedures?
Campaign finance cases can originate from many different sources, such as the following:
- Routine FEC monitoring and audits;
- Sworn information from someone who complains about a violation;
- Information is given to the FEC by other government agencies.
- A person admits they violated campaign finance laws.
Who Handles Civil Violations?
The FEC's Office of General Counsel handles civil enforcement of violations and usually involves a few different steps.
For example, the alternative dispute resolution process could settle mutual consent involving remedial measures. A committee might agree to hire a compliance officer to deal with campaign finance issues. Another enforcement action is administrative fines to committees for late or non-filed reports based on a schedule.
Suppose you are under investigation for campaign finance fraud. In that case, you need to protect yourself by retaining a federal criminal defense lawyer to have the best chance of a successful outcome.
You will need someone with experience negotiating with prosecutors and federal law enforcement agencies. We need to review all the facts of your case in detail to put a plan together moving forward.
Alleged political campaign finance violations are serious issues as they can potentially result in substantial civil fines or a federal prison sentence. Contact us for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.