|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Audit questions accounting used by DeLay committee
Records show ARMPAC revised campaign reports for 2001 and 2002
By R. JEFFREY SMITH and DEREK WILLIS
WASHINGTON - An interim federal audit of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's principal fund-raising committee has found that the group engaged in some inappropriate accounting of receipts and expenditures, prompting it to revise all campaign reports for 2001 and 2002, according to a knowledgeable government official and public records.
The group, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), is a giant among committees established by House and Senate lawmakers to finance their own political campaigns and those of colleagues. Several thousand individual and corporate contributors have given a total of $13.2 million to ARMPAC since 1999; the committee has in turn spent millions to help DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and fellow Republicans win re-election.
DeLay's aides have not detailed what ARMPAC did wrong in its filings to the Federal Election Commission or explained why the group made the revisions this week, before the commission's audit is completed. A spokesman for DeLay, Dan Allen, said Thursday that he could not comment.
Ian Stirton, spokesman for the Federal Election Commission, declined to comment, saying officials are barred from discussing even whether an audit is under way.
The government official who confirmed the audit requested anonymity for the same reason.
The committee's revised filings, published Wednesday by the FEC, omitted $15,523 in contributions it had previously listed and included $51,755 in expenditures it did not previously report.
Those amounts represent, respectively, less than 1 percent of the $1.746 million in itemized contributions that ARMPAC collected during those years and 1.5 percent of the $3.298 million in federally regulated funds that it spent on election races.
For the first time, the revised filings also listed as short-term debts some items listed as expenditures.
One example is a postponed $5,732.90 payment in 2002 for food and drinks at a fund-raiser held by DeLay at a resort in Puerto Rico owned by contributor Charles Hurwitz.
FEC regulations require that all such debts be reported promptly to ensure a public accounting of sums that amount to short-term gifts and loans, even if the debts are eventually paid.
The revised filings also for the first time list a debt of $121,456 from ARMPAC's regulated campaign account to a separate ARMPAC account that took in unregulated donations in those years.
Jan Baran, a Republican lawyer who specializes in campaign law, said the listing of this debt means that ARMPAC improperly used unregulated campaign contributions to finance certain expenses during those years.
Unregulated contributions are those donated directly by corporations, unions or other wealthy donors, often in excess of the limits imposed on contributions to regulated funds.
The use of unregulated contributions by federal lawmakers was prohibited by a campaign finance law enacted in 2002.
That circumstance adds a wrinkle to the issue of how ARMPAC can now redress its mistake. Essentially, its debt is to an entity that no longer exists.
Baran says he could not assess whether any of the revisions made by ARMPAC represent serious mistakes until the FEC releases a final audit report and he sees whether the errors have attracted the interest of its office of general counsel, which can bring legal action and assess financial penalties.
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