The Federal Elections Commission is unambiguous when it comes to the reporting of recipients of salary payments of campaign staff: The name of the individual must be listed.
Congressional candidate for California’s 25th Christy Smith is not reporting the names and salaries of her campaign staffers, based on her FEC filings. She is only listing a payroll company.
The company Smith is using to pay the salaries is Method Campaign Services.
The FEC shows Smith has been paying Method Campaign Services tens of thousands of dollars in salary payments since November 2019. However, the $270,000 in salary payments have not identified who on her staff received a payroll check, as required by the FEC.
Pursuant to the FEC, once a payroll company is paid over $200, the salary payments must be itemized.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) found this out the hard way.
“A great scoop by Lachlan Markay prompted U.S. Senator Joni Ernst’s campaign to back down on a “subtle accounting maneuver” used to avoid “reporting the names of the campaign staffers on her payroll, how many of those staffers there are, and the extent of payments they’ve received,” BleedingHeartland.com reported.
Apparently Ernst’s campaign reported itemized expenditures the first two quarters of 2019 showing individual salary payments, but as Markay reported, “In the third quarter, and in every periodic FEC report since then, ‘payroll’ expenditures disappeared completely. At the same time, payments to Insperity, a payroll and benefits management service used by a handful of federal political campaigns, shot up. In the first half of 2019, the Ernst campaign paid Insperity a quarterly average of just over $8,000. In the subsequent three quarters, as its payroll expenditures disappeared, that average was more than $131,000.”
“Brendan Fischer, the director of Federal and FEC reforms at the Campaign Legal Center, told Markay, ‘They can’t do that,’ adding, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen a campaign stop reporting any payments to individual staffers, and instead just report lump-sum payments to a payroll company.'”
What this means back in California is that we have no idea who is working for Christy Smith’s congressional campaign, in addition to violating the FEC rule.
As California Globe reported in 2019, when it was discovered that then-Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) was sexually involved with one of her staff members, reporters were able to dig more into her campaign, and go to the FEC website and see who had worked for her campaign collecting a salary because it was reported correctly.
When Katie Hill was a candidate, it was also alleged she and her campaign staffer went on vacation and other personal trips together during the campaign, the Globe reported.
A complaint filed by a Katie Hill constituent with the Federal Elections Commission named staffer Morgan Desjardins, who was paid to be available for personal and private purposes unrelated to the Representative Hill’s congressional campaign. As such, as a candidate in the 2017-2018 election cycle, Rep. Katie Hill misused campaign funds for her personal use, the complaint alleged.
The Globe contacted the Smith campaign to ask why salary information is not being provided to the FEC. We have not had a reply yet, but will update the article when we do.