The campaign of former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and current State Senator Julianne Ortman failed to return over $30,000 in general election campaign contributions to individual donors within the time required after Ortman withdrew from the primary election last year.
Based on new campaign finance reports filed by Ortman's campaign with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), Ortman's campaign returned $23,125 in general election contributions on September 30, 2014. Ortman's campaign reported returning $7,200 in general election contributions on December 31, 2014.
The FEC confirmed today that a candidate who does not participate in the general election must return any contributions designated for the general election within 60 days of withdrawing from the primary or losing the primary election.
Ortman officially ended her campaign for the U.S. Senate on June 2, 2014 when she formally withdrew from the primary election, just days after she failed to receive the Republican Party of Minnesota's endorsement for U.S. Senate at their state convention in Rochester.
Since Ortman ended her campaign on June 2, 2014, all general election contributions needed to be returned to individual donors by July 31, 2014. Therefore, the contributions returned to individual donors on September 30, 2014 and December 31, 2014 - totaling $30,325 - were returned after the 60 day deadline.
The FEC provides campaigns with instructions on how to allocate contributions for the primary and general elections. According to the Federal Election Commission Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees, campaigns "must adopt an accounting system to distinguish between contributions made for the primary election and those made for the general election..." The FEC's guide also states "candidates should en-sure they have enough cash on hand to make those refunds if needed."
It appears Ortman's campaign did not "en-sure they have enough cash on hand to make those refunds if needed", as Ortman loaned her campaign $8,400 on December 31, 2014 - the same day her campaign returned $7,200 of general election contributions to individual donors.
In response to a request for comment, Ortman claimed her campaign "self-reported this issue" to the FEC, but she did not respond to a question asking when her campaign notified the FEC. Ortman also did not respond to a request for a copy of the communication she claims was sent by her campaign to the FEC which "self-reported this issue..."
Staff at the FEC could not confirm Ortman's claim that her campaign "self-reported this issue" and no communications from her campaign about this issue appears in the list of public filings on the FEC's website. Ortman claims all of the general election contributions received by her campaign have now been returned to individual donors.
The FEC previously notified Ortman's campaign in January 2014 about issues with "excessive contributions" which appeared in one of her campaign finance reports filed in October 2013. Ortman's campaign eventually returned over $10,000 of "excess contributions" to individual donors.
Ortman's campaign could be fined by the FEC for failing to return general election campaign contributions to individual donors within the time required after Ortman withdrew from the 2014 primary election. In 2013, former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's campaign paid a civil fine of $20,000 for failing to return $67,700 in general election campaign contributions to individual donors after Weiner withdrew from the 2012 primary election.
This new issue with campaign donations comes just days after Ortman disclosed a payment on her campaign finance reports made by her U.S. Senate campaign to rival candidate, who claimed he received the payment for endorsing Ortman's candidacy.
Picture source: Julianne Ortman for U.S. Senate