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.