FEC Complaint Filed Against Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson has been ignoring the letter and spirit of federal election law for his own political benefit. It is my contention that he has violated the 'testing the waters' exemption.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Fred Thompson is breaking the law and it's time somebody did something about it. For far too long, he has been ignoring the letter and spirit of federal election law for his own political benefit. It reeks of the same disregard for the law that we have seen from the Bush Administration, Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Tom Delay, and Mark Foley.

By filing this complaint, posted below, the FEC can now proceed with action to right this injustice. According to FEC regulations, Thompson will have 15 days to respond to the complaint. Then, their lawyers will write an opinion on the basis of the complaint.

It is my contention that he has violated the 'testing the waters' exemption of election law. He has been presenting himself as a candidate for president, he has been raising large sums of money beyond what would be required to explore a possible candidacy, and he has signed a long term lease on a headquarters for his campaign. He has even spent advertising dollars, which are specifically prohibited by the law.

Up to this point, no one has taken the time to take action against this abuse. I hope that the FEC will act quickly on this issue. Failure to do so will contribute to further corruption of the American political process.

Text of Complaint:August 20, 2007

Lane Hudson

Office of General CounselFederal Election Commission999 E Street, NWWashington, DC 20463

Dear Counsel:

I write to file a complaint against the Fred Thompson for President Exploratory Committee for violation of Federal Election Law under the Commission's jurisdiction. It is clear that he has violated 11 CFR 100.72, the "testing the waters" provision of FEC law. Accordingly, his failure to file disclosure reports violates the law, and the Commission should demand full disclosure of Mr. Thompson's campaign fund raising and expenditures, as well as penalize Mr. Thompson for his willful violation of the law.

As I understand the law, a "testing the waters" fund is only legitimate for the purpose of helping an individual decide whether he should become a candidate. Once someone has decided to become a candidate, the exemption no longer applies, and 11 CFR 100.72 lists five factors to determine when that has taken place. On three of these factors, the examples are numerous that indicate that Mr. Thompson has gone far beyond the activities and speech allowable under the law. These examples do not come from personal knowledge, but rather from numerous accounts in the press, some being direct quotations from Mr. Thompson or his staff. Other facts reported are from public documents available on the internet.

A. 11 CFR 100.72(B)(2) -- "The individual raises funds in excess of what could reasonably be expected to be used for exploratory activities or undertakes activities designed to amass campaign funds that would be spent after he or she becomes a candidate."

On July 31, 2007, Matt Mosk of the Washington Post reported on their blog that Mr. Thompson had filed paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service indicating that he had raised a sum of $3,400,000 for his campaign committee. (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2007/07/31/the_noncandidates_fan_dance.html)

The Washington Post further reports that this same filing with the IRS indicated that $72,000 of this total was marked for use in the General Election. This is an egregious violation of the "testing the waters" clause, as it clearly indicates an intention for protracted campaign activity. In the same report, former FEC General Counsel, Larry Noble is quoted as saying "I think it's problematic. Clearly it's a red flag."

The report filed with the IRS shows the exact amount raised to be $3,463,355. It further shows expenditures in the amount of $625,743. Among the expenditures are further items worth the Commission's consideration. There were six expenditures totally $168,940 on internet services. This could fall under the advertising clause of the "testing the waters" exemption. Further, there is an expenditure in the amount of $21,142 for Media and $133 spent to Google AdWords, which is an internet advertising service. These all violate the paid advertising clause.

In addition, it is also worth noting that Mr. Thompson's campaign has disclosed that it has paid $88,789 in rent. That is a substantial sum and is another clear indicator that he is operating as a candidate. One further example is an expenditure of $25,322 on legal services. If Mr. Thompson were truly "testing the waters" then the legal needs of a true exploratory campaign would be minimal.

B. 11 CFR 100.72(B)(3) -- "makes or authorizes written or oral statements that refer to him or her as a candidate for a particular office."

In a June 26 report by the Associated Press (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,286820,00.html), Mr. Thompson is quoted as saying "You're either running or you're not running. I think the steps we've taken are pretty obvious."

In a June 4, 2007 interview with Susan Page of USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2007-05-30-thompson_N.htm), Mr. Thompson was quoted as saying "I can't remember exactly the point that I said, 'I'm going to do this, But when I did, the thing that occurred to me: 'I'm going to tell people that I am thinking about it and see what kind of reaction I get to it.' " In a July 12, 2007 report by the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/11/AR2007071102171.html), Thompson adviser Mary Matalin is quoted as saying "He has made up is mind" in reference to his decision about whether to be a candidate for President. As a spokesperson for the campaign, this serves as yet another indication of being beyond the allowable limits of current election law.

In an August 17, 2007 interview on CNN with John King, Mr. Thompson said, "We are going to be getting in if we get in, and of course, we are in the testing the waters phase," he said, adding, "we're going to be making a statement shortly that will cure all of that. But yeah, we'll be in traditionally when people get in this race" (emphasis added). This is the most recent and most blaring example of his intention of being candidate for President, in blatant violation of the 'testing the waters' exemption.

C. 11 CFR 100.72(B)(4) -- "conducts activities in close proximity to the election or over a protracted period of time."

In the July 2, 2007 edition of the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/01/AR2007070101238.html), it was reported that Mr. Thompson's campaign organization signed a long-term lease on a building that would serve as their national campaign headquarters. This is a blatant example of breaching the 'testing the waters' section. In that same article, Mr. Thompson is quoted as saying that he "doesn't have any big announcement tonight" and further says "I plan on seeing a whole lot more of you, how 'bout that?" This statement also violates the spirit of the law.

While these examples should provide ample reason for the Commission to act to find Mr. Thompson in violation of Federal Election Law, I would like to cite, as additional evidence, recent precedent from the Commission itself. In MUR 5365 (Rev. Al Sharpton for President Exploratory Committee), the General Counsel states on page 8 of his Report:

...The Commission's regulations look objectively to candidate's activities, not to the stage of an individual's subjective decision making process, in determining whether the "testing the waters" exemption applies....Once an individual becomes a candidate, equivocal statements of intent, or a future "official announcement" do not eradicate the registration and reporting requirements that have been triggered.

Based on this reasoning, the Commission found that Rev. Sharpton had violated the "testing the waters" exemption. By applying the same standard, there is no other conclusion that can be reached in this complaint against Mr. Thompson.

One last point worth mentioning, Mr. Thompson had approximately $2.8 million in his campaign account after the IRS filing. This fact also clearly indicates that he did not intend to use this money for 'exploring' a possible candidacy. Otherwise, it would have been spent on exploratory activities, especially given the documentation of his impending announcement of candidacy. In the Sharpton decision, the fine was a significant amount in comparison to the amount raised. I would urge the Commission to adhere to the same standards in administering its penalty to Mr. Thompson.


Lane Hudson

Support HuffPost

Popular in the Community