Christine O’Donnell may have broken campaign finance regulations by operating for months at a time without a treasurer, experts say.
Her campaign committee, Friends of Christine O’Donnell, has seen three treasurers quit, and went more than a year without a designated treasurer.
Campaign committees are required by law to have a designated treasurer at all times in order to collect and spend money, according to experts. But, according to records filed with the Federal Elections Commission, she’s gone through several periods with no treasurer at all, including one of more than a year.
“This is a very bad situation,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer with Arent Fox in Washington, D.C. “It’s illegal for a campaign committee to accept contributions or make expenditures unless there is a treasurer in office. … The O’Donnell campaign reported raising and spending well over $100,000 in the first six months of 2010 alone.”
The campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
One treasurer, Tim Koch, resigned in February 2009. Having failed to designate a new one, O’Donnell was warned by the FEC, and hired a new treasurer in April. Susan Dixon worked until June. In September, the FEC again warned O’Donnell that she needed a treasurer.
But O’Donnell didn’t respond. And she went until August 2010 — more than a year — without notifying the FEC of a new treasurer. Instead, after missing two report deadlines, O’Donnell began signing them herself.
There’s nothing that would prevent a candidate from being his or her own treasurer, according to Christian Hilland, a spokesman for the FEC.
Not having a treasurer, however, breaks regulation. And if a candidate doesn’t file an amended “statement of organization” designating someone as treasurer — even if it’s herself — within 10 days, he or she could be breaking the rules, according to experts.
“Every political committee shall have a treasurer,” FEC regulation reads. “No expenditure shall be made for or on behalf of a political committee without the authorization of its treasurer.”
Hilland said the FEC reviews all reports, and will notify a candidate if they’re violating rules — in this case, the two warnings to O’Donnell. After that, only the FEC commissioners can decide whether a candidate may have broken the law.
But because the violations have been corrected — O’Donnell hired a treasurer on Aug. 14 — one expert believes O’Donnell is unlikely to face any punishment from the FEC.
“I would expect most of this would be treated as technical,” Richard Briffault, a Columbia Law School professor, told TPM. “I don’t know how much she would be punished.”
The campaign took in $264,000 this election cycle up to Aug. 25. There was no designated treasurer from last June until Aug. 14 of this year, when Sandra Taylor notified the FEC she had taken over from O’Donnell.
Koch, one former treasurer, did not respond to a request for comment. Another, Dixon, declined to comment.
Another former treasurer, Jonathon Moseley, who worked for O’Donnell during her last Senate attempt in 2008, spoke with TPMmuckraker over the phone. Moseley, a criminal defense lawyer, said he still supports O’Donnell and only quit because it was understood that his position was temporary.
Campaign finance is “not my specialty. I went in there always intending to be a short-term, stop gap,” he said.
[Ed. note: This post was edited after publication.]