Watchdog demands Federal Election Commission crack down on fine-dodging nonprofit

The agency should sue the 60 Plus Association, says Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

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Conservative nonprofit 60 Plus Association is violating federal law by “willfully” refusing to pay a fine for previous election season transgressions, a nonpartisan watchdog alleges in a new complaint to the Federal Election Commission.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is asking FEC officials to further investigate the matter and force the 60 Plus Association to pay the fine by suing the group in federal court.

The new complaint follows an Oct. 30 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity that revealed how more than 160 political committees and similar groups — including the 60 Plus Association, which owes taxpayers $45,000 — have failed to address political campaign-related penalties they promised to pay.

In some cases, the committees’ unpaid fines have lingered for years, in part because the FEC and U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service generally stop pursuing political scofflaws that categorically ignore their debt collection efforts.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint against the 60 Plus Association in 2014. This original complaint led the FEC, in July 2016, to fine the Virginia-based 60 Plus Association $50,000 for not disclosing its donors in violation of federal election law.

In October, 60 Plus Association President Jim Martin told the Center for Public Integrity that former President Amy Frederick agreed to pay the FEC’s fine without obtaining the approval of the association’s board of directors. It last year paid $5,000 of the $50,000 it owed “on advice of counsel,” Martin said.

But the 60 Plus Association board then “decided to contest the remainder of the unprecedented large fine given the situation …We continue to work with Treasury and FEC on this matter,” he said.

The 60 Plus Association describes itself as “a non-partisan seniors advocacy group with a free enterprise, less government, less taxes approach.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s complaint states that the 60 Plus Association is in “clear violation” of its July 2016 agreement to pay the FEC the full $50,000 it owes.

And the FEC needs to be more aggressive with the 60 Plus Association, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington spokesman Jordan Libowitz said.

“Too often, the FEC needs external motivation to take action … it should act and act quickly,” Libowitz said.

During the 2016 election cycle, the 60 Plus Association spent about $122,000 on advertisements boosting 14 Republican political candidates, according to Federal Election Commission records analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Among them: President Donald Trump, who benefitted from about $34,000 worth of 60 Plus Association promotions featuring entertainer Pat Boone, the organization’s national spokesman.

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