FEC Hits Warren Campaign for Unspecific and Vague Financial Disclosures

Sen. Elizabeth Warren / Getty Images
July 17, 2019

The Federal Election Commission has sent a notice to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s campaign committee, Warren for President, Inc., identifying instances of overly vague accounting descriptions and insufficient details in the campaign’s first quarter financial disclosures.

The FEC notice, dated July 11, 2019, calls for the committee to revise its April quarterly report, providing "information essential to full public disclosure of [the committee’s] federal election campaign finances," and warns that the campaign may face an audit or enforcement action if it fails to respond.

Among the FEC's complaints are concerns that the campaign failed to adequately disclose financial exchanges, including contributions from individuals to the campaign and the specifics and purposes of the committee's spending. The FEC also calls for the committee to fully detail out-of-pocket spending by Warren herself on behalf of the campaign.

The notice gives an August 15th deadline for Warren for President, Inc. to respond with an adequately amended report, more accurately disclosing the campaign’s first quarter finances.

The campaign has not submitted an amended filing. It did not respond to a request for comment on the letter from the FEC.

The committee must respond by the deadline if it hopes to ward off an audit, and the FEC warns in the letter that "failure to comply with the provisions of the Act may also result in an enforcement action against the committee."

The letter points out four principle failures by the campaign to fully disclose its income and spending activities.

The notice faults the committee for being unspecific in describing certain purposes of its spending. The FEC identifies the committee’s use of the description "Consultation Services" in referring to services rendered by UpRising Strategies, LLC in return for $18,000, and considers the phrase too vague to accurately convey the purpose of the disbursement.

The FEC’s website provides a list of examples of disbursement purposes which are too unspecific, and the phrases "consulting" and "consulting service" are both labeled "inadequate purposes of disbursement."

The FEC's letter asks for the committee to amend their financial report to disclose and detail personal spending from Warren on behalf of her campaign committee. Any spending by Warren for the committee requires "memo entry itemization" if more than $200 is spent in aggregate on a particular vendor.

The letter also notes that the committee discloses $4,229,723.85 in unitemized receipts from individuals, meaning that the identities and donation amounts of those contributors are not provided. The letter explains that "when contributions from an individual reach $200 for an election cycle, each subsequent contribution from that individual must be itemized, regardless of the amount," and asks that the committee amend their report to itemize contributions from individuals who have given more than $200 to the campaign, or to clarify if aggregate contributions from individuals do not exceed $200.

Further, the FEC calls for the committee to itemize travel reimbursements for staffers. "When the reimbursement amount to individuals for travel and subsistence advances exceeds $500, the payments by staff to any one vendor that make up the reimbursement may have to be itemized… each memo entry must include the complete name and address of the original vendor, as well as the date, amount and detailed purpose of the advance," the notice says.