By Corey Kane/BU Washington News Service
WASHINGTON—The re-election campaign of Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., has failed to disclose employment information for more than $2 million of his contributors, according to an examination of the campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission.
From the nearly 20 months from the start of the 2011-2012 election cycle until the middle of August, the Brown campaign has received 15.7 percent of its contributions from individuals without providing the names of their employers, in violation of FEC regulations.
By comparison, the campaign of Brown’s Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, failed to report employment information for only about 1.6 percent of individual donors during the same period, for a total of just over $255,000.
FEC rules state that, when individuals give directly to a candidate for federal office the candidate’s campaign must disclose the donors’ name, employer, occupation, zip code, state, date of contribution, and amount. This applies to contributions over $200 during an election cycle, which, under FEC rules, must be itemized.
Brown campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said the campaign was in compliance with FEC regulations.
“We seek employment information from our donors, and in those cases where we do not receive that information, we make every effort to follow up,” Marre said in an email.
On the missing employer information, Brown’s campaign reported to the FEC: “Information requested per best efforts.” Marre provided a sample letter, which the campaign sent out to all contributors who exceeded $200 requesting the information.
But, for those donors whose employment information was not listed, a place of employment was not difficult to locate in many instances. This raises further questions about why this information is not contained in the reports, since zip codes were provided in the filings — and many donors, when reached for comment, were not shy about disclosing their background and their reasons for supporting for Brown.
For example, one donor for whom employment information was lacking, Washington-based attorney Sidney Silver, was located via the Internet utilizing his name and zip code information.
Silver, a $1,000 contributor, said he supports Brown’s reelection because of the latter’s bipartisan voting record. “He doesn’t just vote party line,” Silver said in a telephone interview. “He stepped up to the plate and said, ‘Enough of this nonsense.’ ”
In contrast, Silver contended that Warren would toe the party line. He also said he was concerned about the costs of Obama’s health reform law for employers.
Silver said he has supported both Democrats and Republicans in the past with contributions. In this case, he wrote a check and had a friend who knows Brown deliver it, he said.
FEC officials said they were barred by law from commenting on whether a specific campaign is the subject of an inquiry.
The FEC Web site does list both enforcement actions taken against campaign committees, along with requests for more information on filings from various committees.
However, there is currently no request for information on the missing employer data from Brown’s contributors, according to the FEC site.
Because Senate candidates do not submit contribution records electronically, itemized lists that contain information such as contributors’ employer and zip codes have a lag time in being posted. Brown’s itemized contributions, currently are available through Aug. 17, and account for $13 million of the $19.5 million total he has raised from individuals.
By comparison, Warren’s itemized contributions through Aug 17 for $16 million of her $28 million total from individuals.
Brown’s failure to report this information means media outlets that track contributions from major industries and lobbying interests may be underreporting Brown’s support from certain sectors.
The Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics uses the FEC employer data to aggregate how much certain industries are contributing to individual candidates. The group’s Web site, OpenSecrets.org, currently lists health professionals as having donated $672,473 to Brown.
However, the site cautioned that these are conservative estimates and only include numbers where individual contributors list their employer.
For instance, in just one day – June 21, 2011 – more than 27 health care professionals at Coordinated Health in the Allentown, Pa. area contributed more than $37,000 to Brown’s campaign. Brown’s FEC filings revealed the home cities, states, and zip codes of these individuals, but failed to disclose the employer or occupation for all 27.
Although several refused comment, a gynecologist at Coordinated Health, Bruce Viechnicki, said there was a fundraiser hosted by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., where contributors got a chance to meet Brown. Brown — first sent to Congress in a special election at the beginning of 2010 in which he campaigned against President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — had helped fundraise for Toomey in the fall of 2010, when Toomey first won his Senate seat.
Viechnicki, who donated $1,000 to Brown, said Brown shared his conservative values, while he slammed Obama on health care as well as the economy and defense.
“Obamacare is an abomination,” Viechnicki declared, saying that the Affordable Care Act could jeopardize the insurance of 10 million people who currently are on the Medicare Advantage program. He feels that Brown could offer a check on Obama’s policies, declaring, “Senator Brown is the sort of balanced person we like to support.”
Brown’s campaign even failed to list the employer of 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, who gave $500. Other campaigns receiving Dole contributions list his employer as Alston & Bird, a Washington-based international law firm.