On December 26, President Obama signed into law a bill to extend the Federal Election Commission’s administrative fine program. The new law broadens the program significantly, in ways that will especially affect those who make independent expenditures. The administrative fine program allows the FEC to collect fines on a streamlined basis, and on fixed schedules, when political committees fail timely to file their regular periodic reports, or when candidate committees fail timely to file their last-minute contribution (or “48-hour”) reports. While the program places strict limits on when a respondent can challenge a fine, it has generally been regarded as successful, and has largely avoided partisan or ideological controversy.
The program was last reauthorized in 2008 and would have expired with reports covering activity through December 31, 2013. In its 2012 legislative recommendations, the FEC asked Congress simply to extend the existing program for another five years.
But the new law, introduced in November by Republicans and Democrats in the Committee on House Administration, and passed by voice vote and unanimous consent in the House and Senate respectively, goes beyond the FEC’s 2012 request. It broadens the program significantly to cover an array of additional reports.