WASHINGTON (AP) -- The fund-raising arm of the Senate Republicans agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty for using unregulated soft money to help elect GOP congressional candidates, including Minnesota Sen. Rod Grams, according to documents released by the Federal Election Commission.
The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty for accepting a contribution from a national bank, in violation of federal election laws.
In the closing weeks of the 1994 campaign, in which the Republicans gained control of the Senate, the National Republican Senatorial Committee gave $175,000 in soft money to the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group, to conduct get-the-vote-drives in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and other states.
Among the Senate candidates benefiting from the get-out-the-vote drive were Grams and Rick Santorum, R-Penn., both of whom won their races. The FEC, which released the documents Monday, said the candidates did nothing wrong.
Soft money -- unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals -- cannot be used to directly aid federal candidates. But under federal law, political parties can use soft money to pay part of the cost of activities that jointly benefit candidates running for federal offices and candidates running for state and local offices. Almost two-thirds of the cost must be paid for with money raised under federal contribution limits.
By giving the money to the anti-abortion group rather than conducting the get-out-the-vote drive itself, the NRSC was able to get around the restrictions on using soft money, the FEC alleged.
NRSC officials denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to settle the case to avoid going to court.
''The NRSC firmly believes that it would prevail on the merits if this matter proceeded to litigation and that no civil penalty would have been assessed even if a court agreed with the commission's new interpretation of the law, but simply put, seven years of your process was penalty enough,'' general counsel Craig Engle wrote the FEC.
In addition to paying the penalty, the NRSC agreed to transfer $88,207.60 in money raised under federal contribution limits to its soft money account.
On the Democratic side, the DNC was fined $5,000 for accepting a $50,000 check from Hamilton Bank. As a national bank, the institution cannot contribute to political parties, though it can give to a party building fund. In this case, however, the contribution was placed in the party's soft money account.
The contribution was solicited by veteran Democratic fund-raiser Howard Glicken, a friend of Vice President Al Gore. Glicken earlier was fined $40,000 by the FEC for soliciting campaign donations from a foreigner and arranging a contribution in a phony name. He also pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in a deal with the Justice Department's campaign finance task force.
On the Net: http://www.fec.gov
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