Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) initial bid for Congress in 1998 was fueled in part by an illegal loan from his parents, the Federal Election Commission has concluded.
In a final audit report released this week, the FEC determined that two loans totaling $28,000 given to Weiner’s campaign in 1998 amounted to excessive contributions by his parents, Morton and Fran Weiner.
It is unclear if the FEC has initiated any sort of enforcement action; such matters are kept confidential until their resolution. In the past, similar transgressions by other candidates have resulted in civil penalties.
While candidates can donate unlimited personal funds to their own campaign war chests, close relatives such as parents must abide by the same restrictions that bind all other contributors. Perhaps the most well-known example involved former Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz (R-Utah), whose then-husband pumped $1.7 million of her stockbroker father’s fortune into her 1994 campaign.
While Weiner’s parental loan was considerably smaller, the loans caused the FEC’s audit staff to spend several months tracking down the true source of the funds.
The audit report details the difficulty the FEC encountered in determining the source of the money; it ultimately issued several subpoenas to the candidate, his campaign and his credit union.
Weiner spokesman Anson Kaye defended the chapter in Weiner’s fundraising history and insisted that his boss and the campaign committee had been nothing but forthcoming with the FEC. Kaye also noted that the FEC’s inquiry into the $28,000 loan went beyond the scope of the agency’s original audit.
“This is referencing stuff that happened before the election cycle they approached us about,” Kaye said, while noting that Weiner had repaid his parents “before the audit even began.”
“All that was paid back in 1999. … His parents provided some money that he paid back and that was all wrapped up,” he said.
According to the FEC’s summary of events, Weiner’s campaign lawyer initially responded that “no loan documents exist” when the agency was conducting its investigation early last year. The lawyer also argued that the 1998 loan was outside of the FEC’s 2000 election cycle audit and claimed that the agency’s request for documents was in violation of Weiner’s First Amendment rights and privacy interests, the report said.
On May 13, 2002, the lawyer produced September and October 1998 credit union statements for Weiner — who has left the door open to a possible New York City mayoral bid in 2005 — and a “tissue copy of one of the loan proceed checks for $20,000 payable to Friends of Weiner.”
On May 17, 2002, the FEC issued a subpoena to Friends of Weiner requesting documents and a separate subpoena and an order to Weiner himself to produce records to identify the source of funds used to make the loan.
On June 25, 2002, Weiner’s lawyer stated that the campaign committee had produced all relevant documents in response to the FEC’s subpoena, but stated that Weiner had never received the subpoena sent directly to him.
The FEC sent Weiner another copy of the subpoena July 2, 2002, and on Aug. 5, 2002, the Congressman replied that the $28,000 in funds he used to make loans to his campaign “were funds in my personal account at the Municipal Credit Union.”
FEC documents show that Weiner further stated that “to the best of my current ability to recall” he made four deposits into his account in August 1998 — two deposits from the City of New York totaling less than $2,000, one $10,000 deposit from his father and a $2,500 deposit from his mother.
Kaye said his boss was completely responsive to all of the FEC’s inquiries, noting that the FEC was requesting documents that Weiner simply did not have.
“We voluntarily turned over all of the documents at our disposal before any subpoena was issued,” Kaye said.
Although the FEC had requested a copy of his August 1998 monthly credit union statement, Weiner’s campaign lawyer said Weiner didn’t have one and provided a letter from a credit union officer explaining that a computer glitch prevented the credit union from retrieving a copy of it as well.
The FEC, however, was not satisfied and subsequently issued an additional subpoena to the credit union.
On Sept. 16, 2002, the credit union provided the FEC with copies of four cancelled checks totaling $30,000 that had been deposited in Weiner’s account in August 1998.
They included a $15,000 check dated Aug. 3, 1998, that was drawn on Mort Weiner’s account and deposited into Weiner’s credit union account.
“The memo line of the check indicated that the $15,000 was a loan,” the FEC stated in its final report on the matter.
Two other deposited checks for $5,000 and $2,862, both dated Aug. 5, 1998, were drawn on Fran Weiner’s account and had blank memo lines. The last check, dated Aug. 3, was for $7,138 and was drawn on an investment account and “was made payable to the Candidate’s mother.”
The FEC failed to account for the source of an additional $5,000 deposited into Weiner’s credit union account Sept. 2, 1998, but concluded that “it appears that the Candidate’s parents provided the funding for the $28,000 in loans” to their son’s campaign, amounting to prohibited “excessive contributions.” The other $2,000 of the $30,000 total was legal under federal contribution limits for individuals.
Weiner’s campaign attorney later told the FEC that Weiner at some point “returned the amount in question to his parents.”
The FEC also found a number of other violations by Weiner’s campaign committee, which were resolved in the course of the audit. They included: excessive contributions from other contributors; a misstatement of financial activity; a failure to file some required 48-hour notices for contributions; deficiencies in the disclosure of contributor information; and failure to properly disclose information for 23 percent of the campaign’s disbursements.