Primary Loser Fights FEC's Campaign Fine

     DALLAS (CN) - A Dallas attorney sued the Federal Election Commission, claiming it unfairly fined him $15,200 for late campaign disclosure reports in his unsuccessful run for Congress last year.
     [Domingo] Garcia for Congress and his campaign treasurer Swati Patel sued the FEC in Federal Court.
     The FEC claims Garcia's campaign failed to timely file a 48-hour notice for the Texas primary and fined him $15,200.
     Garcia lost to Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in the Democratic Party's runoff election for District 33.
     Garcia sued the FEC one day after he was defeated in his bid for the national presidency of the League of United Latin American Citizens. (See below.)
     "Even though plaintiffs filed the required disclosures and responded in writing to defendant's reason-to-believe finding set forth in its February 8, 2013, notice letter, defendant refused to modify the finding or the original civil money penalty calculated," Garcia says in his complaint.
     Garcia claims the FEC ignored safe-harbor provisions in the Federal Election Campaign Act, which has exceptions for reporting requirements, including non-partisan activity designed to encourage people to register to vote.
     Garcia claims he made good faith efforts to timely file the reports, but was "prevented from doing so by reasonably unforeseen circumstances," which he does not explain.
     "The fine assessed as the remedy for the alleged statutory violation is grossly disproportionate to what plaintiffs failed to timely disclose," the complaint states. "Furthermore, incumbent United States senators, congressman and congresswomen and other candidates for United States Congress have either filed campaign disclosure reports late or completely failed to file them, and defendant has assessed a much smaller penalty or fine for these violations, even when the amount not disclosed or not timely disclosed greatly exceeded what plaintiffs failed to timely report or disclose."
     Garcia claims that former U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft failed to report contributions during his 2000 U.S. Senate campaign in Missouri.
     "Nonetheless, defendant subsequently entered into a conciliation agreement with the respondents," the complaint states. "Legal commentators have noted that the vast majority of defendant's sanctions punish rather trivial violations of FECA technicalities and that the penalties imposed by defendants often vary greatly and fail to differentiate between the seriousness of the violations involved."
     Garcia wants the fine modified or set aside.
     Garcia sued one day after he was defeated in his bid for the national presidency of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
     Margaret Moran was re-elected at LULAC's annual convention in Las Vegas on Sunday.
     LULAC sued Garcia in Dallas County Court in March to stop his candidacy, claiming that Garcia was ineligible for not paying his dues and for not being an active member of a local council for at least three consecutive years, which is required by the LULAC constitution.
     One month later, Judge Carlos Cortez granted Garcia a temporary restraining order that stopped LULAC from preventing him from running, and restraining it from publishing statements that he is ineligible to run.
     Garcia described LULAC's lawsuit as "trickery," and said it refused to accept dues from local Council 102 at least three times.
     "Plaintiff, whose executive members clearly have something to hide, are trying to create false issues to muddy the water and prevent Garcia from running for office," his 16-page answer stated. "Plaintiff's argument is basically that Garcia was not part of a council in good standing for three consecutive years immediately prior to being elected. However, this is not the case. Garcia and Council 102 have been in good standing from 2010 until present."