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FEC Determines ’92 Wilder Campaign Must Repay More Than $70,000

April 21, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Federal Election Commission made an initial ruling Thursday that former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder’s 1992 presidential campaign should repay more than $70,000 to the U.S. Treasury and his state.

The six-member commission accepted most of the recommendations made by its staff auditors, including that Wilder’s campaign underpaid Virginia for use of state aircraft and telephones.

It determined that Wilder’s campaign should repay the state $30,848 for those expenses and reimburse the U.S. Treasury more than $40,000 for inappropriate expenses or contributions and excessive federal matching dollars.

Wilder’s campaign has 30 days to contest the ruling, known as an initial determination.

The campaign’s lawyer, Leslie Kerman, said Thursday she intends to appeal and expects the repayment figures to be lowered before the matter is finally settled.

″The commission members seemed to be receptive to some of our arguments if we give them some additional documents,″ she said.

Wilder, who is considering a U.S. Senate bid, was the first prominent Democrat to withdraw from the presidential race, bowing out in January 1992, even before the first primary in New Hampshire.

But he, like most other presidential candidates, qualified for taxpayer funding of his campaign, receiving $289,027 in so-called federal matching funds before leaving the race.

Candidates who accept public financing are audited by the FEC afterward to ensure they spent the money correctly.

The auditors’ report, released earlier this week, concluded Wilder’s campaign:

-Accepted a small amount of contributions that exceeded federal limits.

-Improperly made $15,300 in severance payments to 11 campaign employees.

-Made ″questionable″ payments totaling $15,000 to two members of his gubernatorial staff.

-Received about $23,000 more in matching funds than it was entitled to.

The auditors, using a complex formula set under federal campaign laws, concluded Wilder should repay the U.S. Treasury $45,252.

The FEC on Thursday accepted most of the findings but eliminated about $3,000 of the campaign expenses questioned by auditors. The staff must go back and reformulate the final repayment to the U.S. Treasury, which will still total more than $40,000, Ms. Kerman said.

The commission accepted the auditors’ conclusion that the campaign did not adequately reimburse Virginia for the use of state airplanes and helicopters that flew Wilder to campaign stops.

Federal law allows candidates to fly government aircraft, provided they reimburse the government at a rate of first-class air fare for each campaign- related passenger.

The state, however, charged Wilder’s campaign a flat $625 hourly rate for all campaign flights.

The auditors determined that the state’s rate was below the federal requirement for several trips and recommended that the campaign repay the state $27,977 to make up the difference.

The auditors also concluded that Wilder did not adequately reimburse the state for campaign-related use of state telephones and credit cards, recommending the campaign repay another $2,871 to Virginia.

Wilder, whose term as governor expired in January, is seriously considering a late entry into the U.S. Senate race in Virginia, as an independent.

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