Candidates for federal office recently (if they were following the law) filed their reports with the Federal Election Commission for the 3rd Quarter.
Before I got into the actual data itself I need to draw attention to apparent campaign law violations by the David Vogt campaign.
In the most recent report, filed on October 15, $527.88 disclosed on his report is listed as cash from anonymous donors.
Here’s what one FEC web page says about cash contributions:
Contributions of cash (currency) which in the aggregate exceed $100 from one person are prohibited. If a committee receives a cash contribution exceeding $100, it must promptly return the excess amount to the contributor. If an anonymous cash contribution over $50 is received, the amount in excess of $50 must be used for some purpose unrelated to federal elections. 11 CFR 110.4(c).
Here’s what a FEC brochure for citizens says about contribution limits:
$100 in currency (cash) to any political committee. (Anonymous cash contributions may not exceed $50.) Contributions exceeding $100 must be made by check, money order or other written instrument.
From another FEC brochure:
Furthermore, with respect to federal elections:
No one may make a contribution in cash of more than $100.
If you look at the applicable federal code:
(2) A candidate or committee receiving a cash contribution in excess of $100 shall promptly return the amount over $100 to the contributor.
(3) A candidate or committee receiving an anonymous cash contribution in excess of $50 shall promptly dispose of the amount over $50. The amount over $50 may be used for any lawful purpose unrelated to any Federal election, campaign, ,or candidate.
Among the anonymous cash donations Vogt received (that were listed on his report) were donations of $200, $140, and $100. By my calculations Vogt needs to return $140 to various donors. On top of that, he has $150 that he can’t use for federal election purposes.
Here’s a summary of the financial activity for the congressional campaign of David Vogt in the 3rd Quarter:
Yes, you read that correctly. David Vogt’s campaign is in the red (based on his calculations.) They spent more money in the last quarter than they raised. That cash on hand number in the report is indeed -3362.48. Vogt appears to be operating as his own campaign treasurer. I suspect that ranks up there with representing yourself in a court of law as dumb moves go. He has no loans listed and there’s no way you can have a negative cash on hand number.
At the end of the of the 2nd Quarter, Vogt had $3553.34 cash on hand. In the 3rd Quarter, he raised $9364.53 and spent $12,727.01. When you do all that math, by my calculations Vogt had $190.86 on hand at the end of the 3rd Quarter, even though he reported his campaign account being $3362.48 in the red.
If you look at the detailed summary for the 3rd quarter you’ll see where Vogt reported $0 on hand to begin the quarter despite the fact that his summary from the 2nd quarter shows that he had $3553.84 on hand going into the quarter. This demonstrates why you shouldn’t be your own campaign treasurer, especially when you aren’t an accountant, or capable of basic arithmetic.
Additionally, if you adjust Vogt’s spending figure ($9634.53) for 3rd Quarter to remove in-kind contributions and money he either needs to return or can’t use due to the violations I detailed above, the Vogt campaign only really raised $4972.59 in actual cash for the 3rd quarter.
Additionally there are other potential discrepancies or violations in Vogt’s report. In his disbursements, he lists a $2600 disbursement that is classified only as “in-kind” to Jane Beresford in Fulton, Maryland, who is the President of Cybersystems . Also, the list of receipts for the quarter includes an in-kind contribution for $2600 from Beresford and another in-kind contribution of $2600 from Frederick Gray of Frederick, who is Vice President of Cybersystems. There is also a $2600 “in-kind” disbursement to Gray.
You can see the Cybersystems website for yourself. The gentleman walking in front of the website, presumably Gray (a.k.a. Captain Video), reminds me a lot of the universally panned RNC website roll-out that featured Michael Steele walking in front of the page.
There are some questions raised by the Beresford and Gray listings on the report. What exactly is an in-kind disbursement? Was that supposed to be an in-kind contribution? Is it a separate item from the in-kind contribution of the same amount from Beresford and Gray or is it a screw-up that resulted in the same items being listed in both disbursements and receipts? If that last one is the case, then that throws off all the other calculations in Vogt’s report for the 3rd Quarter.
Beresford and Gray both co-founded Cybersystems. They may have renamed the company to The E-Broadcast Center now, but no information shows up in Maryland business records online for a company chartered in that name. However, the records for Cybersystems indicate that the business status is “Forfeited” since 1997.
From the SDAT website:
“Forfeited” means the “legal existence” of the entity has been relinquished and it is usually for failing to make
required Annual Report/Personal Property Return filings for prior years.
It looks odd that two founders of a company are giving nonspecific in-kind contributions to the Vogt campaign – especially when you throw in the “in-kind” listing on the disbursement page. I realize the listing of their employer is reference data the FEC requires campaigns to ask. However, without any specifics for what the in-kind contributions were, I have to wonder if they related to Cybersystems. Corporate contributions or the use of corporate facilities are both prohibited in federal campaigns.
There may be an innocent explanation for all of the above, but the shoddy record-keeping and report-filing by the Vogt campaign raises more questions than it answers.
There’s also another in-kind contribution question raised by the report. The campaign made regular disbursements to Bud Otis during the quarter that were in $1000 intervals about once a month. Additionally, an in-kind contribution for $1,000 for “consulting fees” is listed on the receipts page. I’m not sure by my reading of things about the legalities of that maneuver.
Here’s what the FEC says about volunteering services:
An individual may help candidates and committees by volunteering personal services. For example, you may want to take part in a voter drive or offer your skills to a political committee. Your services are not considered contributions as long as you are not paid by anyone. (If your services are compensated by someone other than the committee itself, the payment is considered a contribution by that person to the committee.)
If Bud Otis was really giving the hours to the campaign, then it shouldn’t have been an in-kind contribution from him.
Here’s more clarification on that from the federal code section dealing with “uncompensated services by volunteers”:
The value of services provided without compensation by any individual who volunteers on behalf of a candidate or political committee is not a contribution.
I’m not sure if the fact that Otis was already being paid $1,000 a month has any bearing on this situation. (I suspect it does not) or if this isn’t some sort of error related to shoddy bookkeeping as well.
Vogt also lists an in-kind contribution from himself on the receipts page while also listing it on the disbursements page. This contribution was $307.04 and for “media advertising” as listed on the receipts page and on the disbursements page.
I won’t get any farther into the weeds on these issues. The detailed summary, disbursements page, and receipts page from Vogt’s 3rd Quarter FEC report are at the bottom of this post for you to see all of the things I detailed above. If the Vogt campaign or anyone else involved would like to clarify, I welcome it. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
It has been established that the Vogt campaign violated campaign finance laws by taking anonymous cash donations over $50 and any cash donations over $100. It will be interesting to see if they file an amended report now, or if someone files a complaint against them with the FEC.
Vogt is listed as his own campaign treasurer. I’m not sure how people would fill about sending someone to Congress who can’t even keep how much money they’ve raised and spent straight from one quarter to the next. The questions about in-kind contributions showing up on the disbursements page (and in some case identical amounts on the receipts page) could just be related to similar incompetence issues. However, there could also be some violations of campaign laws involved if the explanation isn’t so simple. If I don’t get clarification on that from anyone involved, I may take it up with the FEC myself.
I would suggest that Vogt may want to find someone else to keep up with his campaign finances, so a mess like this doesn’t happen again. Of course, if his fundraising continues at this rate, he may not be around much longer as a candidate. Either that or he won’t be able to afford hiring an accountant or a compliance consultant.
This is just the latest evidence of amateurism and incompetence at the Vogt campaign. The definitive violations I reported above may be a small amount of money, but when you’re dealing with cash like that, the opportunity for corruption is there. Even a small amount of money raised illegally is still a violation of the law. Attention to detail is something lacking in this society today and it’s not too high of a standard to ask that people seeking to earn our trust follow the law.
As promised, information Vogt’s 3rd Quarter 2013 FEC filings is below.
First, the Detailed Summary:
Next, the Disbursements page:
Finally, the Receipts page:
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.