Zombie Campaigns Still Spending as FEC Says No Crackdown Until 2019
The Federal Election Commission acknowledged last week that it actually won’t begin scrutinizing the spending of former office holders until 2019. FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram said that was always the timetable agreed by commissioners in a closed-room session in April, but that the agency had accidentally announced the wrong start date. That is an unnecessary delay, said Adav Noti, a former FEC attorney who is now a senior director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C. watchdog group. Ex-lawmakers have been given plenty of notice, he said.
The FEC’s crackdown was announced after a Tampa Bay Times/10News WTSP investigation, called Zombie Campaigns, found that the agency ignored campaign finance reports showing more than 100 former politicians carried on spending donations even though they were no longer campaigning. In some cases, these campaigns remained open for more than a decade. Retired lawmakers and former candidates spent leftover donations on airline tickets, club memberships, a limo trip, cell phones, parking and new computers, reporters found.
But Noti and two veteran Tampa Bay federal lawmakers say the new oversight stops short of the legal changes that are needed to curtail the misuse of campaign funds highlighted by the Times/WTSP report. The Campaign Legal Center is still waiting for the FEC to act on a petition it filed in February calling for the FEC to specify what costs former lawmakers can expense with campaign donations and to place a time limit on how long campaign accounts can remain open.