The Philadelphia Inquirer: For Fattah, numbers slow to add up
Accounting errors are common in campaign filings, as are FEC requests for clarification - more than 6,500 have been sent to House and Senate candidates in the past two years. But the number and frequency of questions to Fattah is unusual, said Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel who reviewed the recent reports when asked by The Inquirer.
"That's not routine. That can either signify a campaign that frankly doesn't have control over what it's doing, in terms of its records . . . or it could reflect that there's something more serious going on - they're trying to disguise something," said Noble, now general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group.
The amendments noting the obligations were filed by a new treasurer and congressional chief-of-staff, Roger Jackson.Noble, the former FEC counsel, questioned how the debts could have been overlooked, since later reports show that Fattah's camp was adding new amounts and making payments.
One possibility is that Fattah did not originally intend to pay his legal fees with campaign funds, but changed his mind, Noble said. Another is that he did not want to reveal the debts, or that his staff simply erred
Also unclear is how much the FEC will care. In the case of serious filing problems, the commission can audit reports, seek a settlement that includes a fine or file a lawsuit, Noble said.
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