American Conservative Union --complaint against the Edwards campaign, May 30, 2003
 
May 30, 2003
Ms. Ellen Weintraub, Chairman
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20463

RE: Formal Complaint Against Edwards for President committee, Julius Chambers, Treasurer; John Edwards, candidate for President; and individual Respondents Tab Turner; Don Howarth; Suzell Smith; Stacy Kern; Robert Kern; Elaine Reeves; Else Latinovic; Anita Latinovic; Vikki Sanchez; Donna Hosea; Linda Moen, John Doe and Jane Doe, other unnamed donors to the Edwards for President committee. 
 
 

Dear Chairman Weintraub:

This is a formal complaint against the Edwards for President Committee, John Edwards, and certain named and unnamed individual donors to the Edwards for President campaign for violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended ("FECA") and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2003 ("BCRA") ("Complaint"). 

The Complaint is filed pursuant to 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(1) and 11 C.F.R. §111.4 by the American Conservative Union, Inc. ("ACU"). The undersigned serves as Chairman of ACU, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation and the nation's oldest and largest conservative grassroots lobbying organization.

This complaint is based upon numerous media reports documenting illegal fundraising activities by and illegal contributions to Edwards for President, several of which are referenced herein and/or attached as exhibits to this Complaint. This Complaint is based on the published reports that Edwards for President Committee and John Edwards and numerous donors and fundraisers have violated the provisions of federal law related to fundraising for and contributions to presidential campaign committees.

ACU hereby requests the Federal Election Commission to conduct an audit of all contributions to the Edwards for President committee and that no federal matching funds be authorized for or paid to the Edwards for President committee until each contribution submitted for federal matching funds has been specifically audited, the donors interviewed and the funds deemed to be contributions given freely and voluntarily from the donors' own resources and otherwise not in violation of federal campaign finance laws.

According to numerous reports, donors to the Edwards for President Committee were promised they would be reimbursed by their employer(s) for contributions made to the Edwards campaign. Other reports and investigations reveal that maximum level donors appear not to have the financial resources available to have made the reported contributions from their own funds. Clearly, a pattern has emerged of illegal fundraising and contributions involving the Edwards for President campaign which demands action by the Commission prior to the payment of federal primary matching funds and further which requires the imposition of penalties for violation of the law by those guilty of such violations.

The Edwards for President campaign has acknowledged some irregularities and wrongdoing, but still not in a manner sufficient to remedy a clear pattern of illegal activity reported in various public sources.

The Washington Post, April 18, 2003, Page A1, "Edwards Returns Law Firm's Donations", by Thomas B. Edsall and Dan Balz Washington Post Staff Writers reported that "The presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) announced yesterday it will return $10,000 to employees of a Little Rock law firm after a law clerk said she expected her boss to reimburse her for a $2,000 donation. Federal election laws prohibit a person from funneling donations through someone else to conceal their source. Such practices would enable the reimbursed to exceed the legal contribution limit for individuals, recently raised to $2,000 from $1,000 per person per election."

However, the return of $10,000 does not begin to address the pattern of illegal activity in which the Edwards campaign has engaged. 

Published reports from the Center for Individual Freedom's website state that twenty (20) persons identified as paralegals and nine (9) listed as legal assistants employed by Turner & Associates PA in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed $2,000 each to the Edwards campaign after receiving assurances that their contributions would be reimbursed. From this law firm alone, more than $58,000 in suspicious contributions to the Edwards campaign were received, yet only $10,000 was reported by the Edwards campaign as being returned to the donors from that firm. See www.cfif.org, John Edwards: An Oops for the Trial Lawyers' Presidential Candidate¸ posted April 24, 2003. See also "What John Edwards Money Said" by John Samples, www.cato.org, posted on the website of the Cato Institute on May 9, 2003.

Mr. Tab Turner, principal in the law firm (Turner & Associates PA) which employs the suspicious Little Rock donors was a major donor to Sen. Edwards political action committee during the 2002 election cycle, having contributed $189,000 to the New American Optimists PAC, according to the public records filed with the Commission. See Center for Responsive Politics, www.crp.org. 

Mr. Turner has been intimately involved in contributing to and fundraising for political committees associated with John Edwards, including but not limited to the Edwards for President Committee according to the public records filed with the Commission.

Other newspapers have separately undertaken to investigate donors to the Edwards for President campaign and have found similar illegal activities.

The Hill newspaper reported on May 7, 2003 that Edwards for President campaign documents filed of record with the FEC reveal a pattern of illegal contributions by low-level employees of law firms whose principals are engaged in contributing to and fundraising for the Edwards for President committee.

According to The Hill, "Donations to Edwards Questioned", by Sam Dealy, the contributions from low-level employees contributing at the maximum $2,000 level arrived on the same day along with contributions from the partners and attorneys of the firms employing the individual donors. Further, the FEC records reflect that contributions from spouses and other family members were also made on the same dates as those from the low-level employees of the law firms. No conduit reports were filed by the law firms which employ the donor-employees.

According to The Hill, questionable contributions were received from Respondents Stacy Kern; Robert Kern; Elaine Reeves; Else Latinovic; Anita Latinovic; Vikki Sanchez; Donna Hosea; Linda Moen. Other individual donors, based on public reports, have also violated federal law with sham contributions to Edwards for President committee. 

Principals of law firms who may have engaged in illegal fundraising practices include Respondents Tab Turner, Don Howarth, Suzell Smith and other trial lawyers may have engaged in coercing or facilitating contributions from or through their employees to the Edwards for President campaign.

Clearly, the Edwards for President committee's return of a mere $10,000 does not begin to remedy a pattern of clear violation of FECA by the campaign and its donors and fundraising personnel.

The Respondents have violated numerous provisions of federal law, including but not limited to:
 
2 U.S.C. §441a(a)  Making excessive campaign contributions
2 U.S.C. §441a(f) Accepting excessive campaign contributions
2 U.S.C. §441f Prohibitions on contributions in the name of another
2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(8) Failure to report earmarked contributions / failure to report donor(s) as conduit(s) for earmarked contributions

ACU demands a full and thorough investigation and audit of each donor and each contribution to the Edwards for President committee and moves to enjoin the payment to the Edwards for President campaign of any federal primary matching funds until each donor's contribution has been reviewed to insure its compliance with applicable federal law. 

[See 26 U. S. C. §9034, limiting eligibility of primary matching funds to lawful contributions]. 

Please contact me if you have further questions regarding this Complaint.

Sincerely,

David A. Keene, Chairman American Conservative Union

AFFIDAVIT

I hereby swear upon penalty of perjury that the above and foregoing Complaint is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, based upon the information from the public sources referenced herein.

David A. Keene