At yesterday’s open meeting, the Federal Election Commission unanimously voted to require increased disclosure on the part of political committees and postponed for the second time what is likely to be a lively debate over the Office of General Counsel’s enforcement manual. Chair Weintraub predicted that at the next public meeting, scheduled for July 11th, the Commissioners would discuss two main issues surrounding the proposed enforcement manual: what types of information FEC staffers should review during preliminary investigations, and to what degree FEC staff should coordinate with the Department of Justice. The enforcement manual under which FEC staff is currently operating is now publicly available.

As a result of yesterday’s vote, political committees will now be formally required to report the “ultimate payees” of campaign expenditures. The Commission’s Reports and Analysis Divison has already made a practice of sending Requests for Additional Information to political committees who fail to report this information; the new rule formally sets forth this reporting requirement. According to the draft interpretive rule, reports of itemized disbursements by political committees on Schedule B will now have to include “memo items” indicating the name and address of the recipient of certain expenditures, as well as the date, amount and purpose of the payment. The requirement would be triggered when:

  1. A political committee reimburses an individual who used personal funds to pay committee expenses aggregating more than $200 to a single vendor;
  2. A candidate uses personal funds to pay his or her authorized committee’s expenses that aggregate more than $200 to a single vendor without receiving reimbursement; or
  3. A political committee pays a credit card bill that includes a charge of more than $200 for a single vendor.

The $200 aggregate threshold is applied per calendar year, except for authorized committees, for whom it is applied per election cycle. When the reimbursement is for travel and subsistence advances that exceed $500, a memo entry is required for each payment to a specific vendor if total payments to that vendor aggregate more than $200. The Commission approved draft A of the proposed rule. The Perkins Coie Political Law Group submitted comments on the draft rule in March.

There are currently no Commission advisory opinion requests pending or rulemakings open for comment.