Gerlach to pay $120,000 for over-reported contributions

Rep. Jim Gerlach’s (R-Pa.) campaign committee will pay a penalty of $120,000 after reaching an agreement with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Gerlach’s committee over-reported contributions by more than $2 million in some 2004 and 2005 reports. The FEC also said there was reason to believe the committee misreported $9,000 in refunded contributions as unitemized contributions in October 2005 and failed to itemize contributor information in its 2004 end-of-year report after receiving $9,000 from a joint fundraising committee.

Gerlach’s 2006 opponent, Lois Murphy (D), filed the complaint.  

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Several other contentions against Gerlach were either dismissed or found to be without basis. The Gerlach campaign said the mistakes were made due to clerical errors and noted that the large fine is a result of the size of the over-reported contributions, not the severity of the error.

Gerlach said he originally wanted to fight the fine, but decided it would be too time-consuming.

“At the end of the day, the campaign did make clerical errors. It is my campaign and I accept responsibility,” Gerlach said. “We are voluntarily putting this clerical nightmare behind us and moving on.” 

Gerlach beat Murphy by about 1 percent in one of the highest-profile and most expensive House races in the country in 2006. He has also filed a complaint with the FEC regarding Murphy’s campaign-finance reports.

There is no word yet on that complaint. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which is targeting Gerlach again in 2008, called the FEC case “a very serious matter.” 

“Mr. Gerlach had a responsibility to accurately and honestly disclose where his campaign contributions came from and his failure to do so is the sort of business-as-usual behavior voters are tired of,” DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said.