An analysis of congressional candidate Jeff Beals’ campaign finance reports shows potential errors involving contributions through the fundraising site ActBlue.
Beals, one of seven democrats looking to unseat Republican Congressman John Faso in New York’s 19th District, has received most of his contributions though ActBlue, a website allowing democrats from across the U.S. to easily contribute to blue candidates. However, ActBlue is not listed on Beals’ Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.
There is no indication money received through ActBlue has not been listed in the filings, but Beals’ campaign appears not to have told the FEC this money was received via a fundraising site, or “conduit.”
Beals’ campaign received $118,432 in contributions from individuals in 2017, according to his last available FEC filing. Of this, 765 contributions totaling $74,993 were received through ActBlue, according to a photo of the campaign’s ActBlue account sent to The Other Hudson Valley by Beals’ finance director.
FEC Deputy Press Officer Christian Hilland said contributions from individuals over $200 received through a conduit are supposed to list the conduit in FEC filings.
These contributions are supposed to include a note in the filings informing the FEC and the public the money was received through an “earmarked organization.”
The total amount received through a conduit is also supposed to be listed in the FEC filing, Hilland said.
“The lump-sum transfer from the conduit, that would be itemized,” he said.
Brendan Glavin, data and systems manager for the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington D.C., agreed.
“Normally, the report would include a line(s) noting the total money coming in from ActBlue,” Glavin wrote in an email. “That would be accompanied by multiple memo entries detailing the amounts received from and information on each individual donor. Some candidates do not report this correctly. It involves and extra step.”
Campaigns are not required to individually list contributions less than $200, according to FEC rules. However, Beals does individually list many of these smaller contributions, though none of them include any indication they were received through ActBlue.
A candidate can “override” the FEC software and individually list the smaller contributions, Hilland said.
“Many grassroots candidates are about small donors and small contributions,” he said. “They tend to override their software programming and list everything.”
Since smaller contributions do not need to be individually listed, there is no rule stating there needs to be accompanying information about whether they were received through a conduit, Hilland said.
However, overriding the FEC software to individually list smaller contributions should force the software to list if the money came through a conduit as well, Hilland added.
The Beals campaign sent the following response to questions about its ActBlue filings.
“We review our quarterly FEC filings with the help of a compliance officer,” the statement read. “If the reporting of a conduit is found to need amending by our compliance officer, we will not hesitate to do so.”
The Beals campaign is already having to amend its year-end FEC filings due to missing information.
The FEC sent a publicly-available letter to Campaign Treasurer Allen Beals Feb. 25 listing three errors in the filing.
The campaign appeared to accept contributions of more than $100 in cash from different individuals; did not list if contributions were for the primary or the general election; and failed to disclose specifics of how campaign money was spent, according to the letter.
The Beals campaign filed an amended report after receiving the letter, but it is unclear if all the issues are yet resolved.
The FEC does not disclose how or if errors are corrected, Hilland said, who added the “potential issues of non-compliance” listed in such letters do not indicate criminality.
“We’re not alleging anything,” he said. “We’re just pointing out some issues that may need to be addressed.”
Failure to address issues in the FEC letter can lead to “enforcement actions,” or an audit, according to the FEC, though audits are relatively rare and would not be undertaken until after the election.
The two FEC reports the Beals campaign filed prior to the year-end report were also later amended, according to the FEC.
The potential errors involving ActBlue donations were not addressed in the FEC letter or the any of Beals’ amended filings.
The five 19th District candidates who have filed financial reports with the FEC are all also using ActBlue, though they all appear to be properly indicating where the money came from in their FEC filings.
Beals, a Woodstock-based former CIA officer and State Department diplomat, is running on a progressive platform which includes calls for economic equality in a district comprising the northern Hudson Valley, the Catskills, and areas east and west of Albany. He will face six other democrats in the congressional primary June 26, and the winner will run against John Faso in the mid-term elections Nov. 6.
The race is considered one of the most competitive in the country.
Read more about the candidates’ campaign contributions here.
The article has been updated to clarify the portential ActBlue errors were not one of the errors addressed in the FEC letter, and to indicate one of the candidates has not yet needed to file FEC reports.