Edwards campaign likely to pay $170,000 over '04 contributions

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 3, 2009 

John Edwards.

CHUCK KENNEDY / MCT

WASHINGTON — The Federal Election Commission is expected to order former Sen. John Edwards' campaign to pay more than $170,000 for accepting excessive contributions and other violations involving his 2004 presidential bid.

The recommendation was part of the FEC's staff audit of Edwards' campaign, a routine practice for presidential candidates who receive public funds.

Edwards, a North Carolina attorney who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008, refused donations from federal lobbyists and promoted legislation to overhaul campaign finance.

The audit of his first presidential race already has been voted on once by the six-member commission. However, it awaits final approval because the FEC disagreed with another of the auditors' findings that called into question use of money owed to Edwards.

In a vote in November, the commissioners split 3-3 on whether Edwards violated elections regulations with the transfer of more than $500,000 to his presidential campaign from his Senate coffers. The money initially was raised to retire his personal debt from his 1998 Senate race and to fund his re-election to that seat, an option he dropped for a White House bid.

Jason Torchinsky, a partner at Holtzman Vogel, a law firm that specializes in political law, said that errors totaling $170,000 on $21 million in contributions is "not that crazy."

"It's not unusual to have disagreement about contributions and where they're attributed," he said on Tuesday. "Almost every campaign has some sort of problem there."

Torchinsky said the rejected finding, which involved a questionable transfer of more than $500,000, was more notable in part because of its size.

Edwards initially raised much of that money to retire some of the debt from his 1998 Senate race. The debt — $6 million — was all owed to himself for self-financing.

Edwards forgave the personal loan on Dec. 31, 2003, and transferred some of the cash questioned by the FEC from his Senate campaign to his presidential campaign committee on Jan. 11, 2004.

Auditors also questioned the transfer of money that was raised for a Senate re-election bid.

In total, auditors said he was ineligible to transfer $508,000 of the $963,000 he funneled between his Senate and presidential committees. The money should've either been returned to contributors, or their permission to shift the donations to another contest should've been sought, auditors said.

ON THE WEB

The FEC report

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