FEC Fines Campaign of Waco Hearing Co-Chairman $30,000
Aug. 01, 1995
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Republican co-chairman of the House Waco hearings has been fined $30,000 by the Federal Election Commission for campaign finance violations.
Rep. Bill Zeliff was accused of improperly using money from his business for his 1990 congressional race, failing to properly report loans he made to his campaign, and neglecting to quickly repay his business for services it provided in his House race.
Zeliff, R-N.H., insisted that although he had done no wrong, the FEC case had become too costly to fight.
``While I am confident that I would have prevailed if I were to pursue certain issues of the case further, I reluctantly decided to settle this matter,'' Zeliff said in a statement. ``It is clear the prudent thing to do is put this thing behind me. The alternative is tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.''
The FEC alleged that Zeliff loaned his campaign $216,000, of which $209,000 came from Christmas Farm Inn, a New Hampshire resort hotel in which he had a controlling interest at the time.
Corporations are prohibited from making direct contributions to federal candidates.
The FEC also charged that Zeliff failed to properly report two loans, totalling $97,000, that he made to his own campaign, and also was late in repaying more than $29,000 worth of services like telephones, faxes, automobiles and other benefits that Christmas Farm Inn provided his campaign.
Elizabeth Hedlund, who monitors the FEC's regulation of Congress for the Center for Responsive Politics, said the fine assessed against Zeliff is the second-highest congressional fine for 1995, trailing only Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., whose 1992 campaign was fined $32,000 in April.
The fine against Zeliff is part of a recent get-tough policy adopted by the FEC, Hedlund said.
``This is part of a policy decision to make fines more of a deterrent,'' Hedlund said. ``They used to be seen as more of a slap on the wrist, a pretty cheap cost of doing business.''
Zeliff on Sunday said the government ``killed over 80 people'' in the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in 1993 and suggested that the White House had covered up President Clinton's role in the botched raid.
His remarks prompted an angry retort from the White House Monday. In a letter to Zeliff, White House Counsel Abner J. Mikva said the comments were ``nothing short of irresponsible, intent on creating a story without any news and alleging a scandal without any basis.''
Mikva said Zeliff's comments ignored the fact that Clinton has already said he accepted the recommendation from Attorney General Janet Reno and others to use tear gas to end the standoff at the Branch Davidian complex.
In other campaign finance developments, the Democratic National Committee said it raised $20 million in the first six months of 1995, a figure it said was higher than during any other comparable period in a non-election year.
DNC National Chairman Don Fowler said in a statement that most of the money came from more than 200,000 small donors _ all of whom gave $200 or less.
Much of the money went toward the DNC's debt, which was reduced from $4.2 million at the end of 1994 to $784,000 now, Fowler said.