Campaign Finance Violations
Most laws regulating campaign financing are enforced administratively by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which issues civil fines for violations. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) does have criminal jurisdiction in certain types of cases, namely those that involve willful violations of campaign finances laws. These kinds of offenses tend to result in serious penalties, including jail time, so if you have been accused of violating a campaign finance law, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced white collar crime lawyer about formulating a defense.
The federal campaign financing laws are contained in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which was passed in 1971 and applies to essentially all financial transactions that have an impact upon, whether directly or indirectly, the election of candidates for federal office. However, a person will only face criminal sanctions for committing one of these crimes if he or she did so knowingly and willfully, which means that the defendant knew that his or her conduct was unlawful.
In most cases, the violation must also have involved at least $2,000 in a single calendar year. Generally, the more money is involved in a case, the more serious the charges. For instance, FECA crimes that involve $25,000 or more can result in up to five years in prison. Furthermore, all criminal FECA violations are subject to the country’s sentencing guidelines, which means that certain cases must be handled non-criminally by the FEC, including cases that:
- Don’t involve a knowing or willful violation, but a violation based on negligence or a lack of knowledge of wrongdoing; or
- Involve sums below the statutory minimum for criminal prosecution.
Finally, if a campaign financing crime involves an effort to conceal the offense from the public, the DOJ also has discretion to pursue the matter as though it were a conspiracy to defraud the U.S., which comes with severe penalties.
Types of Campaign Financing Crimes
One of the most serious campaign-finance related accusations that a person can face is that he or she accepted campaign contributions from foreign entities. In fact, it is not only unlawful for federal candidates to accept foreign contributions, but even to solicit them in the first place. Furthermore, the law is not limited to requests for cash, but also applies to anything of value. FECA also attempts to regulate the influence of money on politics by:
- Limiting the size of contributions that any single person can make;
- Prohibiting corporations, unions, banks, and other entities that have a potentially corrupting influence on federal elections from making contributions; and
- Imposing strict disclosure requirements on anyone who participates in the process of financing a federal campaign.
If you or a loved one are facing charges for one or more of these activities, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
An Experienced White Collar Crime Attorney
To learn more about defending yourself against these types of election charges, please call dedicated Miami lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919 today.