[JURIST] The US Federal Election Commission [official website] is asking for public approval of new proposed policies [press release], one of which would reduce penalties for politicians and contributors who voluntarily report their own potential violations of campaign finance laws. The draft proposal for sua sponte submissions [text, PDF] has two separate recommendations for penalties:
The first recommendation is to reduce penalties by up to 50 percent (depending on the individual facts of the case) for respondents who alert the FEC before the violation had been or was about to be discovered by any outside party, amends reports or disclosures to correct past errors, returns any ill gotten funds, immediately ceases the violation upon discovery, and fully cooperates with the FEC. If the respondent meets the previous criteria but also hires independent experts to conduct a thorough review, provides the FEC all documentation of the experts audit, and take appropriate corrective actions such as disciplinary action against those responsible, then penalties may be reduced up to 75 percent.
The second recommendation would set the reduction at 50 percent, and use the above mitigating factors to lower the penalty down to 25 percent of damages, or use other aggravating factors to raise the damages up to a 75 percent discount, all depending on the situation. The FEC will be seeking public comment until January 29th.
Other policy proposals forwarded by the FEC include setting up an 8-month pilot program to allow hearings [policy draft, PDF] for those under investigation before the commission determines if there is enough probable cause to prosecute. While some argue this is fairer than the current system, which only allows parties to make their case using legal briefs, others say that the commission is already notoriously slow in resolving complaints, and the hearings will only further weaken the enforcement process. AP has more.