Complaint Leads to Fine for Romney Super PAC’s Illegal Spending in 2012

"Mitt Romney 2012 CPAC" by Mark Taylor - http://www.flickr.com/photos/n3tel/6854522965/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mitt_Romney_2012_CPAC.jpg#/media/File:Mitt_Romney_2012_CPAC.jpg

(“Mitt Romney 2012 CPAC” by Mark Taylor)

The Campaign Legal Center received notification last week that the Federal Election Commission has fined pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future $50,000 for illegally spending millions of dollars airing an advertisement in 2012 that was originally produced and aired by the 2008 Romney presidential campaign.

ROF treasurer Charles S. Spies signed a conciliation agreement on behalf of ROF, agreeing to pay a civil penalty of $50,000.

“This was a blatant violation of the law.  It’s unacceptable that the FEC took nearly four years to resolve the matter with a fine that amounts to a light slap on the wrist for millions of dollars in illegal spending,” said Campaign Legal Center Deputy Executive Director Paul S. Ryan.  “On the bright side, the FEC has now confirmed the obvious: It’s illegal for Super PAC’s to recycle candidate campaign ads.”

Under FEC regulations, financing the republication of campaign materials prepared by a candidate or candidate committee constitutes a “contribution for the purposes of contribution limitations” of the person or group making the expenditure.  Super PACs like ROF are prohibited from contributing to candidates.  Consequently, every dollar ROF spent airing this ad constitutes an illegal contribution.

Beginning in February 2012, ROF made major ad buys to air the 2008 Romney campaign ad—initially in advance of primaries in Arizona and Michigan and continuing through the November 2012 general election.

CLC filed a complaint with the FEC on February 27, 2012, after ROF’s initial ad buy in Arizona and Michigan, alleging illegal in-kind contributions by Restore Our Future, Inc. to presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

According to the Wall Street Journal, ROF spent $4.3 million to air the ad in nine battleground states in May—the Super PAC’s first general election ad buy.  Other press accounts indicate millions more were spent by ROF to air the ad.  According to the book The 2012 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective, this ad (“Saved”) was the Super PAC’s “most-aired political spot.”

To read the conciliation agreement between the FEC and ROF, click here.

To read the complaint filed by the Legal Center on February 27, 2012, click here.

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