By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Republican Marco Rubio, Florida’s senior U.S. senator, has been in office for more than a decade. You’d think by now he and his minions would have read, understood and complied with federal campaign fundraising law.
To win a third six-year term, Rubio has raised a total of $34.7 million through June 30, according to records compiled by the Federal Election Commission. His main opponent, Orlando Democrat Congresswoman Valdez “Val” Demings, reports total receipts of just over $43 million during the same period.
Before the Nov. 8 election, some experts predict the total fundraising for both candidates combined could reach a stunning $100 million.
The job of U.S. senator pays $174,000 a year.
Marco Rubio for Senate, his principal campaign committee, raised most of his war chest – $27.2 million in contributions and transfers from other authorized committees.
In late June, the Federal Election Commission sent Marco Rubio for Senate a letter warning about its acceptance of more than 2,000 contributions that appeared to exceed federal contribution limits. Those tens of thousands of dollars of prohibited contributions are detailed on 52 pages.
IT AIN’T OUR FAULT
The FEC asked the Rubio committee to amend its reports to provide additional details about those “incompletely or incorrectly” disclosed contributions as “essential to full public disclosure.”
In an Aug. 1 reply letter, campaign treasurer Lisa Lisker acknowledged taking those illegal donations and explained that some had been returned, redesignated to other elections or returned to the committees that sent then in for redistribution.
Also, Lisker essentially declared, it ain’t our fault.
“Please note the Committee receives contributions from multiple sources and cannot control donors who continuously give over the limits. The Committee does block online contributions from donors who have given the maximum amount allowed by law, but cannot prevent these donors from giving thru alternative sources,” Lisker wrote on Aug. 1.
Translation: Rubio’s committee is blaming his joint fundraising committee, Rubio Victory Committee, for accepting the excessive contributions. Rubio Victory reports raising $1.7 million of his total contributions.
Unfortunately for Rubio, however, FEC regulations require both his campaign committee and the joint fundraising committees to screen contributions to make sure the joint fundraising committee doesn’t accept contributions from donors who have already maxed out in their giving. (Individuals and political committees are generally limited to donating $2,900 per election to candidates for federal office.)
The rules regarding the tedious, but necessary record-keeping requirements for fundraising by political committees are spelling out in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
“The fundraising representative and participating committees shall screen all contributions received to insure that the prohibitions and limitations of 11 CFR parts 110 and 114 are observed,” the code says. “Participating political committees [like Marco Rubio for Senate] shall make their contributor records available to the fundraising representative to enable the fundraising representative to carry out its duty to screen contributions.”
Lisker offered the same excuse to explain the Rubio campaign’s acceptance of a handful of prohibited corporate contributions.
Rubio’s headache here is that the same person, Lisa Lisker, is the treasurer of both his joint fundraiser Rubio Victory Committee and his campaign committee, Rubio for Senate. It appears then that Lisker, a longtime campaign treasurer for Rubio, should know when funds come in whether federal contribution limits are exceeded.
Lisker is the owner of Huckaby Davis Lisker Inc., based in New Alexandria, VA. For 34 years, the firm has done political financial consulting and compliance work for Republican candidates, national and state party committees, political action committees, according to Lisker’s LinkedIn profile.
The next move is up to the FEC. In its June letter to Rubio’s Senate campaign, finance analyst Mary Seiler wrote, “Although the Commission may take further legal action concerning the acceptance of excessive contributions, your prompt action to refund or redesignate and/or reattribute the excessive amount will be taken into consideration.”
Even as his Senate campaign has continued to rake in contributions, Rubio’s failed 2016 presidential campaign remains in debt. In February, Florida Bulldog reported it still owed vendors more than $800,000.
Val Demings for U.S. Senate has had its own troubles with the FEC.
On July 17, the FEC sent Demings’ campaign a warning letter about her acceptance of apparently excessive contributions, adding it may take further legal action if things are not properly fixed. The FEC’s list goes on for 30 pages and also involves tens of thousands of dollars.
The Demings committee’s response is due Aug. 22.