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California’s Suit Against DCCC Leads to $80K Fine

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will pay the state of California an $80,000 fine after admitting it violated state campaign finance laws during the 2000 election cycle.

In an out-of-court settlement last week with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the DCCC and its former treasurer, Janica Kyriacopoulos, admitted that they failed to disclose $3.1 million in campaign contributions and expenditures and failed to file the proper paperwork after making a late $10,000 contribution.

The settlement averts a civil lawsuit that the state agency filed against the DCCC last week, which could have resulted in far heftier fines.

According to the commission, the DCCC failed to file a semiannual campaign finance report in Sacramento covering the second half of 2000, despite disbursing $3.1 million to 27 Democratic candidates and committees throughout California. (The activity was made public in campaign reports that the DCCC filed with the Federal Election Commission, however.) About $2.5 million of the $3.1 million went to the California Democratic Party. [IMGCAP(1)]

The DCCC also failed to disclose a $10,000 contribution it made just days before the general election to a committee controlled by Democratic legislative leaders.

The campaign agency first launched an investigation into the DCCC practices after finding a record of the $10,000 contribution in the legislative leaders’ finance report. The commission decided to file a lawsuit rather than pursue an administrative action, its more common method of prosecuting campaign finance violations, to allow for the possibility of a higher fine — as much as $3 million.

Steven Russo, chief of enforcement for the Fair Political Practices Commission, told the Los Angeles Times last week that while the DCCC did not appear to be wilfully evading the law, it had showed “a pattern of negligence.”

In a statement released after the settlement, DCCC Press Secretary Greg Speed said, “This settlement addresses technical compliance matters from two election cycles ago. All of the information that was filed after the FPPC’s deadline was fully available to the public at that time in filings with the Federal Election Commission.

“The DCCC strives to be in complete compliance with state and federal campaign disclosure requirements and will continue to do so in California,” Speed added.

Kori Bernards, another spokeswoman for the DCCC, said Tuesday that officials at the campaign committee would not comment further.

There is precedent for a state fining a national political party. Last December, the California fair practices agency reached a $22,000 settlement with the National Republican Congressional Committee for failing to disclose $200,000 in late contributions to its Golden State accounts in 1998 and 2000.