Sen. Martinez agrees to fines for campaign violations

WASHINGTON — Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., has agreed to pay $110,500 for violating campaign contribution limits and reporting requirements during his 2004 campaign, Federal Elections Commission records show.

In an FEC agreement reached Oct. 10, Martinez's campaign acknowledged the improprieties, agreed to a fine and promised to revamp the system it uses to keep track of donations.

The FEC said that it didn't believe Martinez personally violated the Federal Election Campaign Act and that it has "made no findings that the violations described in this Conciliation Agreement were knowing and willful."

The cost to Martinez's campaign includes a fine of $99,000, payable to the FEC, which the agency kept unusually low thanks to the campaign's cooperation during the investigation.

The campaign also must pay the U.S. Treasury $11,500 in donations that could not be returned to their donors or rolled over to another campaign account.

"I am delighted this matter is closed," Martinez said in a statement. "On learning of the issue shortly after the campaign, I immediately took steps to correct the situation, and the campaign committee has been in full compliance with FEC regulations."

Here are the highlights:

• The campaign received 186 donations totaling $313,235 that exceeded the $2,000 limit per contributor. Nearly $220,000 of those donations were deemed improper because the campaign failed to notify contributors within 60 days that the excess funds could be refunded or reallocated to another campaign account.

• The campaign did not properly itemize its share of about $320,000 raised through four joint fundraising committees, including the Martinez Victory Fund, the senator's political action committee.

• The campaign failed to file 26 so-called "48 hour notices," which are used to track last-minute contributions over $1,000 during the final 20 days of the campaign.

The violations were discovered during a routine audit, the FEC said. Martinez raised $12.4-million dollars en route to defeating Democrat Betty Castor. He is up for re-election in 2010.

Wes Allison can be reached at allison@sptimes.com or (202) 463-0577.

Sen. Martinez agrees to fines for campaign violations 10/28/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 10:16pm]

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