A longtime Clinton advisor was at the helm of a George Soros-backed Democratic fundraising group when it illegally spent campaign cash during the 2004 presidential election.
The group, America Coming Together, signed an agreement with the Federal Election Commission to pay a $755,000 fine in order to settle charges ACT had violated campaign finance law. The FEC released details of the agreement on August 29.
This settlement was the third largest penalty ever paid to the FEC.
In the run-up to the November 2004 election, ACT raised approximately $137 million. According to the FEC, ACT improperly classified $70 million in receipts in “administrative costs” that were attributable to clearly identified federal candidates.
Campaign finance law, which is enforced by the FEC, regulates how money can be raised and spent in federal elections. Most of ACT’s 2004 election activities were designed to defeat President George Bush and elect Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass.) as President. The group wrongly marked many of those expenses as get-out-the-vote activities, which are not as strictly regulated like money spent to elect or defeat a specific candidate.
Changes made to campaign finance law in 2001 mandate that money for federal elections must be raised in smaller amounts than money contributed for get-out-the-vote activities. Therefore, because ACT spent non-federal money, which is easier to raise, on federal candidates, candidates supported by ACT, like Kerry, had an unfair advantage in the 2004 election.
The conciliation agreement reached between ACT and FEC stated that ACT had “failed to account for millions of dollars in federal contributions that constituted direct support for John Kerry (often due their opposition to the candidacy of George Bush)” causing the group to “severely understate” the amount of money ACT claimed to have spent.
Deeply involved in these illegal activities was Harold Ickes, a Democratic operative who was a senior aide to President Bill Clinton, helped elect Hillary Clinton to the Senate and now advises her bid for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.
Ickes served as the chief of staff from May 2004 to February 2005, at which time he became president of ACT. ACT was formally dissolved in August 2005.
Aside from receiving money from Soros, ACT was also heavily funded by Peter Lewis, chairman of Progressive Corporation, the Sierra Club and Service Employees International Union.
Mrs. Clinton has recently come under fire for her campaign connections to business Norman Hsu. Last week, the Wall Street Journal questioned Hsu’s meager income and his large campaign contributions to Clinton and the Democratic Party. Hsu turned himself into the authorities on an outstanding felony arrest for fraud on Friday.
Republican media outlets have suggested that the Hsu scandal is reminiscent of other Clinton campaign cash scandals. Following President Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election, a Justice Department task force found that foreign money had been funneled through First Lady Hillary Clinton’s office to benefit the Democratic Party.