FEC seeks info from Lewis

The Federal Election Commission is reviewing whether Rep. Jerry Lewis’s (R-Calif.) campaign committee violated election laws by failing to disclose contributions within a 48-hour deadline.

The FEC sent the Lewis campaign committee a letter last month asking for additional information on several items in its post-general filing. The committee has a month to respond.

The FEC routinely issues requests for additional information — almost 20 percent of the campaign reports filed with the commission are flagged for some discrepancy, according to the FEC.

But the letter comes at a time when the FBI reportedly is investigating Lewis, the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, concerning links between campaign contributions and congressional earmarks. 

{mospagebreak}The campaign committee has reported paying $971,000 for legal services last year in its disbursements reports.

Lewis spokesman Jim Specht said the FEC’s letter has been turned over to the law firm of Williams & Jensen for review.

{mospagebreak}Lewis “prides himself on filing as accurately and timely as possible,” Specht said. “He will certainly push [the law firm] to clean up any reporting problems as quickly as possible.”

The alleged violations the FEC pointed to in its letter include $29,000 worth of campaign contributions that were not reported within the 48-hour deadline. Campaign committees are required to report to the FEC any contribution of $1,000 or more within two days of receipt.

{mospagebreak}The FEC listed the contributions with what the commission called “missing 48-hour notices.” These include a $5,000 check from Boeing; a $4,000 contribution from EMC Corp.; a $3,000 check from the American Bankers Association; and a $3,000 contribution from the Laborers’ Political League.

“The FEC regards the failure to file a 48-hour report as a serious violation because it means that identity of the contributor won’t be disclosed until after the election is over,” a campaign-finance expert at Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Brett Kappel, said.

“The FEC frequently seeks penalties for 48-hour violations to prevent candidates from manipulating the system.”

The FEC also found Lewis’s disclosure reports had a “significant increase in the number of entries for which the occupations and/or employers are not provided,” another potential violation of federal election rules.

{mospagebreak}The FEC asked for employment information on 15 contributors in the Lewis campaign’s post-general filing. The FEC generally requires a campaign committee to make its best efforts in securing employment information from contributors.

The Lewis campaign has a month to provide additional information to the FEC.

An FEC spokesperson said the letter for request isn’t unusual. The FEC reviewed more than 52,000 disclosure reports in 2005. It then sent more than 9,000 requests for additional information.