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New Congressman In Select Company By Self-Reporting Campaign Violation

Dec 3, 2018

Newly-elected Congressman Ross Spano says he may have violated federal election campaign laws. If he did, Spano would join a very select group of people.

Spano has written a letter to federal election authorities saying he borrowed about $180,000 from friends to use in his campaign for House District 15. That came on top of Spano submitting a federal financial disclosure form three-and-a-half months after it was due. In the letter, he acknowledged possibly violating federal campaign financing law.

A spokesman for the Federal Elections Commission says they don't publicly acknowledge whether it is investigating a candidate. He did say that it is rare to find self-reported campaign funding violations where a reasonable chance of a violation occured. He said there were only three such cases reported nationwide this year, compared to six last year.

The commission does not have authority to bring criminal charges. It typically levies fines for campaign transgressions.

Here's the Federal Elections Commission's handbook on these cases:

Self-reported voluntary submissions (called “sua sponte” submissions) should include the following:

•An admission of each violation, with names and contact information as appropriate;

•A complete recitation of the facts along with all relevant documentation that explains how each violation was discovered;

•A description of any actions that were taken in response to the violation, if any (e.g., a report of an internal investigation);  and

•A list of any other agencies that are investigating the violation (or facts surrounding the violation).

To encourage self-reporting, the Commission will often negotiate penalties that are between 25 and 75 percent lower than those for comparable matters arising by other means.

Here's a list from the Federal Elections Commission of the number of similar cases:

Credit Federal Elections Commission

These totals do not include the number of sua sponte submissions that were dismissed or in which the agency did not find a reason to believe a violation occured.

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