sion v. National Right to Work Committee, 916 F.
Supp. 10 (D.D.C. 1996); and Federal Election Commission v. National Republican Senatorial Committee, 877 F. Supp. 15 (D.D.C. 1995). The statute of
limitations for campaign finance violations prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 or 1001 is five years.
See 18 U.S.C. § 3282. The Justice Department may
prosecute under these ancillary criminal provisions
(conspiracy, fraud, and so on) even though the
three-year FEC statute of limitations has run, if the
five-year statute applicable to the federal criminal
statutes has not yet passed.
Some courts have found that the statute of limitations period commences when the violation is
committed. In Williams, the court rejected the FECs'
argument that the period should be "tolled" (with
the clock not started) until the violation is discovered; Williams, 104 F.3d at 240. The FEC also contended that the period should be tolled or frozen
under the doctrine of "equitable tolling" for fraudulent concealment. Tolling a limit under this theory
requires a showing that the defendant fraudulently
concealed operative facts, that the FEC failed to
discover the facts in the limitations period, and that
the FEC pursued the facts diligently until discovery of the facts. The court rejected this argument
also, determining that the FEC had the facts it
needed in FECA reports filed by recipient committees to discover the operative facts; Williams, 104
F.3d at 241. The practical effect of these decisions
is to make it significantly more difficult for the FEC
to pursue allegations of campaign finance violations, and to cause the Commission to close a number of high-profile investigations that were past or
near the five-year limit. Especially in the case of
presidential campaigns, which undergo a multiyear
audit before the Commission even authorizes the
opening of an enforcement matter, the combination of the FEC's current capabilities and the fiveyear statute of limitations means that many
investigations will as a practical matter be aborted
without a resolution.
In certain circumstances, where a local committee
can sufficiently demonstrate its independence, it will
not be considered part of a state committee.
For purposes of calculating this limitation, a
contribution to a candidate for an election in a year
other than the year in which the contribution is made
is considered to be made during the year in which that
election is held. Thus, a $1,000 contribution made in 1997 to a candidate running for office in 1998 will
count toward the contributor's annual limit for 1998.
Contributions to multicandidate committees are
always counted toward the limit of the year in which
the contribution is made. 2 U.S.C. § 441a(a)(3).
The Federal Election Commission has required
that a "committee, club, association, or other group of
persons" as defined by section A of 2 U.S.C. § 431(4)
have the "influencing of federal elections" as a major
purpose in order to be considered a "political
committee," based on the FEC's reading of Supreme
Court rulings. However, the D.C. Circuit recently
rejected this criterion, indicating that the $1,000
threshold for contributions is pertinent for evaluating
political committee status (but "major purpose" is still
the test if the group makes only expenditures). See Akins v. FEC, 101 F.3d 731 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (en banc), cert. granted, 65 U.S.L.W. 3825 (U.S. June 16, 1997)
(No. 96- 1590).
"Promotion of political ideas" is defined as "issue
advocacy, election influencing activity, and research,
training or educational activity that is expressly tied to
the organization's political goals"; 11 C.F.R. §
Examples of such benefits are credit cards,
insurance policies, savings plans, or training, education, or business information supplied by the
corporation; 11 C.F.R. § 114.10(c)(3)(ii)(A) and (B).
A nonprofit corporation can show through its
accounting records that this criterion is satisfied, or
will meet this requirement if it is a qualified 501(c)(4)
corporation and has a written policy against accepting
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Campaign Finance Reform:A Sourcebook.
Contributors: Anthony Corrado - Editor, Thomas E. Mann - Editor, Daniel R. Ortiz - Editor, Trevor Potter - Editor, Frank J. Sorauf - Editor.
Publisher: Brookings Institution Press.
Place of publication: Washington, DC.
Publication year: 1997.
Page number: 23.
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