The Michigan Democratic Party was fined $8,600 by the Federal Election Commission last month as a result of excessive contributions and sloppy record keeping during the 2015-16 election cycle.
“The Committee's reporting errors included, among other items: excessive, prohibited and other impermissible contributions or transfers; mathematical discrepancies, failure to provide supporting schedules; failure to properly itemize contributions and transfers from political committees; failure to properly itemize disbursements,” the FEC wrote in a letter to the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee.
While the fine is not particularly significant, it does come on top of a hefty $500,000 fine levied against the party by the FEC last summer after an internal investigation into the party’s fund-raising bingo operations. That fine was the 11th-largest ever imposed by the FEC.
The fine levied last month must be paid by March 22.
As part of the negotiated settlement with the FEC, the state party agreed to amend federal campaign finance reports to address missing information and promised that someone within the committee would attend a conference, webinar or other type of training program offered by the FEC. The party also said it had switched vendors to be in better compliance with federal campaign finance law
"The Michigan Democratic Party takes compliance with federal election law very seriously. When some minor issues were brought to our attention, we took steps to correct them immediately and will continue to work with the FEC to ensure our reporting and compliance is transparent and accountable," Michigan Democratic Party chief operating officer Lavora Barnes said in a statement. "We have taken measures, including increased training, upgraded technology, and increased oversight to ensure that we avoid any issues going forward."
The larger fine levied last summer already is cutting into the Democratic Party’s coffers. The party made $100,000 in payments on that fine in July and October of 2017 and a $40,000 payment in January, said FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram. According to the agreement with the FEC, the fine must be paid off by mid-2019.
The bingo fine far exceeded the average penalty levied against candidates and political organizations over the years. The highest average fine over the last 40 years was $179,499 in 2006.
That agreement came after an internal study found that individual contributions from bingo players exceeded campaign contribution limits through their weekly visits to political bingo games, record keeping was shoddy and reporting of 12,500 bingo contributions involving $4.5 million was inaccurate. The agreement also stated that the party understated contributions at the bingo games over 14 years by $4.4 million and disbursements of bingo prize money by $3.9 million.
Over the course of 14 years, the Michigan Democratic Party ran nine weekly bingo games to raise money for the party’s federal campaign account. The party stopped running the games in 2014.
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