- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s short-lived 2008 presidential campaign owes more than $200,000 in election fines, and the Obama campaign is petitioning federal regulators for advice on whether it is allowed to pay off the bills.

If the Obama for America campaign isn’t allowed to transfer the money, then Mr. Biden’s campaign will have to start fundraising, because it doesn’t have enough funds in the bank, according to a recent election filing.

The request comes two months after an audit by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) concluded that the Biden campaign had accepted more than $100,000 in “excessive” contributions, including funds spent on airfare that should have been considered a corporate contribution.

Overall, the FEC ordered Mr. Biden’s campaign to pay $219,005 to the U.S. Treasury, with $138,000 due within 30 days of the FEC delivering its final audit report to the Biden campaign. As of Oct. 1, the final FEC report had not yet been delivered. An attorney for the Biden campaign did not return calls last week for an update.

Attorneys for both the Obama and Biden campaigns recently asked the FEC for a formal opinion on whether the Obama campaign can transfer the money to the Biden campaign, or just pay the debt off outright.

Mr. Biden ended his presidential run after a fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucuses. The FEC audited his campaign because he accepted public financing. According to the latest FEC filing by Biden for President, the campaign only had $82,000 cash on hand by Sept. 30.

Judith Corley, an attorney for the Obama for America campaign, and William Farah, an attorney for the Biden campaign, wrote in a joint letter to the FEC on Oct. 1 that the FEC opinion will determine whether the Biden campaign will have to raise the money on its own

In addition to the $138,000 owed within 30 days of getting the FEC’s final report, the Biden campaign also will have to pay an additional $89,500. Lawyers said they expect that to happen soon.

In its audit, the FEC said Mr. Biden’s campaign took an illegal campaign contribution because it accepted a trip on a corporate jet between New Hampshire and Iowa. The campaign paid the charter-jet owner, GEH Air Transportation, at a first-class rate, but the FEC said the money should have been paid at a corporate airfare rate, which is more expensive.

The campaign lawyers told the FEC they seek confirmation that the Obama campaign can transfer funds to the Biden campaign, citing a provision in campaign-finance regulations they say allow for unlimited transfers between “previous federal campaigns” of a federal candidate.

The lawyers also argue that the transfer should be permitted even though both the Obama and Biden campaigns operated during the same election cycle.

In arguing for the transfer, the campaign lawyers cited the case of former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, who was permitted by the FEC to transfer extra money from his 1986 Senate campaign to pay off debts from this 1984 presidential bid.