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In Quick Fashion, House Broadens Program for FEC Fines

The House of Representatives rarely passes any campaign finance bill, but this week the House passed one in record time, but some may not have known what was in it.

On Monday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3487
, to extend the administrative penalty authority of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) until the end of 2018, and to expand the authority to cover more disclosure requirements. Without Congressional action, the FEC authority for administrative fines would end on December 31st.

The bill was introduced last Thursday and sponsored by all nine members of the House Administration Committee,  and passed on a voice vote on Monday. The speed may have been planned so that the campaign finance bill did not become encumbered with a wide variety of amendments, which is often the case with campaign finance legislation. For example, after a recent ’60 Minutes’ expose, Rep. Andy Harris, D-Md., introduced a bill to extend the prohibition on personal use of campaign funds to also apply to a member’s leadership PAC.

The FEC administrative fine program started in the 1999-2000 election cycle and relates to disclosure reports that are filed late or not at all. After a quick check on filing, a fine from an established schedule is applied. Over the years the FEC has collected over $4 million in fines from candidates and committees.

The bill also expands the program to cover more types of organizations, if the FEC adopts a formula of fines for them. These include organizations making independent expenditures or electioneering communications, such as national, state and local party committees, 501c4 and other non-profit organizations. Some of these organizations have, in the past, made extremely large pre-election expenditures. If the FEC adopts a fine schedule for them, and the organizations does not file, or file late, a 24 or 48-hour disclosure notice, it could trigger a large automatic fine.

Updated: 12/20. The Senate passed H.R. 3487 by unanimous consent.