GOP group cited for campaign infractions
Cody-based organization claims ignorance, pays $3,600 fine relating to ads supporting Trauner.
By Noah Brenner, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: March 19, 2008
A statewide group of Republicans that organized to support Wilson resident Gary Trauner’s 2006 U.S. House run has paid a $3,600 fine to the Federal Election Commission after violating numerous campaign finance laws.
Republicans for Trauner, a Cody-based group headed by attorney Steve Simonton, was cited for multiple violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act including “using the name of a federal candidate in the name of an unauthorized committee, failing to include adequate disclaimers on public communications, failing to register with the Commission in a timely manner, failing to file FEC disclosure reports on time and accepting excessive and corporate contributions,” according to an FEC document.
In all, Republicans for Trauner raised $28,471 and spent $26,622.52 on a series of newspaper and radio ads, and a flyer that the group mailed to 22,000 households in Wyoming.
Radio and print ads contained the disclaimer that Republicans for Trauner had financed the spots but did not contain disclaimers saying that the ads had not been authorized by the Trauner campaign.
The violations were brought to the FEC’s attention by Rep. Barbara Cubin’s campaign manager Bill Maiers, in a Nov. 2, 2006, letter.
When notified of the alleged infractions Simonton replied to the FEC in a Jan. 11, 2007, letter that he and others in the organization thought they had met all of the organization’s reporting requirements with Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and were not aware they had to file federal paperwork as well.
“The failure to initially file and to submit Form 5 arose from our ignorance of the Federal requirements and our ignorance that our political effort would bring us within the Federal Election Commission’s rules,” Simonton wrote in his response.
He went on to state that as soon as Republicans for Trauner officials learned of their mistake, they filed the necessary paperwork with the FEC to register as a political action committee and report their donations and expenditures.
“We are embarrassed to have not figured out the FEC jurisdiction more timely, and apologize,” Simonton said.
Group contributors were also unaware, they said, that because the group was endorsing a specific candidate, Gary Trauner, and not a general issue, like abortion, that their contributions were capped at $4,200 per election cycle. That cap included all contributions to either Republicans for Trauner or Trauner for Congress, Trauner’s authorized campaign organization.
Three people, including “Captain” Bob Morris, of Teton Village, contributed more than the $4,200 maximum when adding their contributions to both Republicans for Trauner and Trauner for Congress.
In all, Morris donated $4,199 to Trauner for Congress, and an additional $12,000 to Republicans for Trauner.
Simonton and Morris were cleared of any intentional violations of federal election law, but Republicans for Trauner treasurer Roger Shanor was held to have violated seven provisions of the law while acting in his official capacity as treasurer, and the organization agreed to pay a civil penalty of $3,600, which was paid off on Jan. 7.
Though the infractions occurred in late 2006 and the FEC completed its investigation in 2007, documents regarding the investigation were not made public until late February 2008, after Republicans for Trauner had paid the last of two installments to cover its fines.
The group filed termination papers with the FEC on Jan. 15 this year. It does not appear to be active for the upcoming election cycle.