Candidate tries to get refund on FEC fine

COVINGTON - Republican State Senate candidate Mike Crotts has issued a news release claiming that the Supreme Court's recent ruling overturning the so-called "millionaire's amendment" nullifies a 2004 ruling by the Federal Election Commission that found him in violation of campaign financing regulations.

Crotts was fined $40,000 by the FEC during his 2004 campaign for Congress after failing to report a personal loan to his campaign.

Under a provision passed as part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, if candidates spend more than $350,000 from their own pockets, opponents may qualify to accept larger individual contributions than normally allowed and can receive unlimited coordinated party expenditures.

The Supreme Court overturned the law in a 5 to 4 ruling June 26, saying it violates the First Amendment.

Following the ruling, Crotts said his attorney is attempting to get the FEC to return his money.

"If it's unconstitutional now, then it was unconstitutional then," he said.

But a spokesman with the FEC said a refund is unlikely.

"There's nothing in the federal election law that deals with retroactive action or undoing action that has occurred in the past," the spokesman said.

According to the FEC, Crotts failed to notify the Commission and his opponents after he loaned $400,000 in personal funds to his campaign for Georgia's 8th Congressional District.

The law required notification within 24 hours of personal contributions exceeding the $350,000 threshold. Crotts filed his first notification more than five weeks after the loan was received, according to the FEC.

The law also required candidates to declare in their initial statement of candidacy filed with FEC that they intend to spend personal funds in their campaign.

Crotts did not provide notification until after he was questioned by the Commission about the omission, according to the FEC.

But Crotts said this week that the alleged infraction was really a "clerical error."

Crotts said he faxed notification to his opponents but could not provide proof of that to the FEC because an old fax machine that was donated to the campaign did not return a confirmation sheet. His secretary did not realize there was no confirmation until the FEC asked for one, he said.

The FEC agreed to accept signed affidavits from his opponents stating they had received notification, but Crotts said only one opponent would cooperate.

"I applaud our Supreme Court for putting a stop to what many have considered an unjust abridgment of free speech and personal finance freedom," Crotts said. "I have never agreed with the bogus findings of that case, and only agreed to their terms as a means to settling the matter quickly. I have always maintained there was no wrongdoing in the matter and this ruling bears my contentions."

Following his unsuccessful bid for Congress, Crotts' subsequent campaigns to represent State Senate District 17 have been mired in controversy. He was disqualified from running in the Republican Primary in 2006 after an administrative law judge ruled he did not live in the district, as required by law. Allegations about whether Crotts' primary residence is in the district have been made during his current campaign, as well. Crotts maintains that he is living in a Newton County home in Glynnshire Court.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.