CREW FEC Complaint Results in $170,000 Fine Against Major Donor to Sens. Landrieu and Vitter
Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released a conciliation agreement in which Cenac Towing agreed to pay a hefty $170,000 fine for making over $40,000 in illegal, excessive, corporate conduit contributions to Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA).
In November 2009, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint against Sen. Landrieu’s campaign committee after the campaign disgorged $25,300 to the U.S. Treasury, rather than returning the funds to donors as FEC regulations generally require. Nearly four years later, the FEC has finally announced its findings. It turns out that in April 2008, Sen. Landrieu’s campaign received sequentially numbered cashier’s checks from an unnamed Louisiana lawyer and, after being unable to confirm the identities of the donors, the campaign disgorged the money to the U.S. Treasury. Similarly, in February 2008, Sen. Vitter’s campaign also received $15,000 in illegal conduit contributions from Cenac. It does not appear Sen. Vitter either returned or disgorged the illegal contributions.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “The size of the fine indicates the FEC took the matter seriously, but apparently not so seriously as to refer the clearly criminal conduct to the Justice Department for prosecution. Also oddly, the FEC allowed the Landrieu campaign to conceal the identity of the lawyer who delivered the illegal contributions in the first place. There are several unanswered questions. For instance, exactly who is Sen. Landrieu protecting, and why did the FEC let that go? Further, why didn’t Sen. Vitter take any action after receiving obviously suspicious sequentially numbered cashier’s checks?” Sloan continued, “Arlen Cenac knowingly and willfully violated campaign finance law. Why isn’t he being prosecuted?”
But for CREW’s complaint, these illegal conduit contributions would never have been discovered, as neither Sen. Landrieu nor Sen. Vitter appears to have referred the blatantly illegal conduct to either the FEC or Department of Justice. Sloan concluded, “You’d think those who are sworn to uphold the law would be a little quicker to refer obviously criminal conduct to the authorities. I guess Sens. Landrieu and Vitter were loath to cross a major Louisiana donor.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions. For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact David Merchant at 202.408.5565 or email@example.com