March 25, 2013

Chicago Sun Times quotes Larry Norton on lack of campaign funding oversight

2 min

Venable partner Larry Norton was quoted in the March 20, 2013 edition of the Chicago Sun Times on the lack of oversight in congressional campaign funds following the resignation guilty pleas of Illinois Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and wife, a Chicago alderman. Jackson and his wife pled guilty to charges of looting his congressional campaign fund to pay for personal expense. This sort of behavior is difficult to detect because Congress stripped the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) of its ability to perform random audits on campaign funds.

While using campaign funds for personal expenses is illegal, Norton said there is no such ban on leadership PACs which have been used to subsidize travel, make contributions to other candidates and even pay for golf outings. Norton added it would be wise for campaigns to have their own checks and balances instead of one person handling the finances. “They run a shoestring operation, even when they have a lot of money,” he said. “When you start getting into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the millions and it’s still being run informally, with one individual without general accounting principles … you can suffer some really serious embezzlement.”

Speaking about the Jackson case, Norton said it was unusual because it was more common for a campaign treasurer to swindle an official. “All that said, I don’t have any reason to think that abuse is widespread,” Norton said. “I think most of the time people pay trusted advisors [to properly handle the campaign money.] There are people who do this kind of thing for a living.”