Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Democratic National Committee and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Citizenship Education Fund Inc. run by Jesse Jackson yesterday each agreed to pay the Federal Election Commission $100,000 for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

The fines are punishment for infractions resulting from a joint get-out-the-vote and voter-registration campaign conducted by the DNC and the PUSH fund during the 2000 election, according to FEC documents.

?In or around September 2000, Reverend Jackson and other Rainbow representatives reached an agreement with officials from the DNC that the Democratic Party would provide up to $450,000 to Rainbow to offset the costs of a partisan GOTV/VR campaign that would benefit Democratic Party candidates,? the FEC said in announcing the agreement.

Mr. Jackson’s speaking tour in support of the Democratic Party’s 2000 campaign included about 120 events. By the end of the tour, Mr. Jackson’s organization had spent nearly a million dollars.

Political parties can use contributions to pay individuals and organizations for services including speeches, but the money must be paid in advance. Because Mr. Jackson’s organization paid for the costs, the FEC said, his entire speaking tour amounted to a corporate contribution, which was illegal as the party had already reached its contribution limit, despite the fact that the education fund was eventually reimbursed.

The American Conservative Union filed the complaint in March 2001 with more than 75 exhibits demonstrating that the DNC, presidential candidate Al Gore and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, Mr. Jackson and his group had broken the law.

?This same kind of activity is commonplace among Democrats and liberal groups,? said attorney Cleta Mitchell, counsel for the ACU, who wrote the 2001 complaint.

She said the ACU will continue to file complaints against organizations that use corporate and union contributions to illegally support Democrats.

?They love to impose restrictions on the free speech and political association rights of the American people, and then the liberals proceed to ignore the laws they support so ardently,? Ms. Mitchell said.

According to FEC documents, the deal was secured through a middleman who was working for the DNC, and was a former employee of the National Rainbow Coalition. That could be construed as illegal coordination, Ms. Mitchell said.

The conciliation agreement between the FEC and the two organizations effectively closes the case, and no further action will be taken. Democrats said they will not challenge the FEC ruling.

?The DNC is committed to continuing to follow the spirit and the letter of the federal election law, and we’re pleased that this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all the relevant parties,? said DNC spokesman Josh Earnest.

Mr. Jackson could not be reached for comment and calls to the education fund’s political director were not returned.

Ms. Mitchell said the total $200,000 fine was a paltry amount compared to the level of illegal activity.

?Sometimes the wheels of justice move a little slowly, and we would like them to move faster, but eventually justice was served,? said ACU spokesman Jesse Benton.

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