Missouri Democratic Party under scrutiny over funds

Thursday, April 9, 2009 | 3:39 p.m. CDT; updated 8:26 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 9, 2009

ST. LOUIS — The Federal Election Commission twice this year has taken or announced enforcement action against the Democratic Party.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Thursday that in February, federal election officials published an audit that found the Missouri Democratic State Committee, which is responsible for fundraising, had not properly tracked $1.2 million from 2003-2004. Also, in February, the FEC and the state Democratic Party reached a settlement over alleged violations from 2005-2006, the newspaper reported.

Much of the issue hinges on how political parties can use their fundraising money. Money raised in campaigns for Missouri offices cannot be used in federal elections. That's because Missouri's campaign finance rules are different from federal laws.

Rod Anderson, treasurer for the Missouri Democratic State Committee, told the Post-Dispatch that the FEC allegations were minor and have been fixed. Anderson said the state party had not had a professional accountant to keep track of its financial records.

But federal election officials contend that the Democratic Party has not met the terms of the settlement for the 2005-2006 violations. The conditions included that the state party hire an outside consultant to keep track of financial transactions.

The FEC on Feb. 18 sent a letter to the Democratic state committee seeking confirmation that the settlement's agreement had been followed. The deadline was March 9, and the agency said it had received no response.

Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Marco Guido said the party sent a letter March 30 explaining how it had complied with the agreement. The letter stated that the terms had been met but did not explain how, Guido said.

This year's action by the FEC is not the only time the party has run afoul with federal election authorities. The FEC has audited, fined or questioned the state party in six consecutive election cycles.

Democrats had to pay a $110,000 fine in 2005 and a $20,000 fine in 2006.

The Missouri Republican Party was last audited for the 1999-2000 cycle. The FEC questioned the state committee about using money raised for state campaigns in federal elections but no sanctions were levied.

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