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FEC audit: McSally campaign misstated finances, didn't disclose donors' jobs

The Federal Election Commission unanimously approved an audit of U.S. Rep. Martha McSally's 2014 congressional run on Thursday, finding that the GOP candidate's campaign didn't properly disclose finances and failed to collect employment information for more than 1,200 individual contributions.

McSally's political fundraising efforts have been dogged for years by filing shortfalls and errors.

A 2015 analysis by TucsonSentinel.com found that she had overstated her campaign haul that year by more than $3 million, and didn't provide required occupational information on more than 860 of about 1,200 campaign donors in the first half of that year.

The Thursday vote by FEC regulators was to uphold an audit of the January 2013 to December 2014 filings of McSally for Congress. No penalty has yet been assessed.

The regulatory panel — two Republicans, one Democrat and one Independent — approved the results of an extensive review of the filings by McSally's campaign in the 2014 run that saw her defeat U.S. Rep. Ron Barber by just 167 votes.

McSally — now running for the U.S. Senate — was among the candidates ranked as least likely to properly provide required information on donor occupations and employers that year  — she didn't include that information in campaign reports for nearly 30 percent of the donations received in the 2014 election cycle. In the first half of the next year, McSally's campaign didn't collect that info on about 75 percent of her donations. Federal regulators have repeatedly knocked the Republican's campaign for errors and incomplete reports.

According to the FEC's findings, approved Thursday, McSally's 2014 campaign:

  • Overstated campaign fundraising by $94,528, and campaign spending by $85,472.
  • Failed to disclose employer and occupation information on 1,266 contributions totaling $687,572.
  • Received 153 contributions, totaling $319,212, that were above the limit for campaign donations from individuals.
  • Failed to file, or filed late, required 48-hour notices for 33 contributions totaling $99,853.
  • Failed to correctly itemize $32,750 in 15 contributions from other political committees.

Multiple McSally representatives were asked to comment on the FEC decision, but did not immediately respond.

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Under federal law, candidates are required to disclose the full name, mailing address, occupation and employer of each person who donates more than $200 in an election cycle. Candidates are required to demonstrate that they have made "best efforts" to obtain employment info from donors, including making a follow-up "stand alone" request, without soliciting a further contribution, within 30 days if it is not provided.

A 2015 complaint that local Democrats filed with the FEC over McSally's incomplete records was dismissed last year, with regulators — who said the matter was a "low-rated" infraction — finding the Republican's campaign had updated some information and made "best efforts" to obtain more.

From 2012's special election to mid-2015, McSally was sent 14 of what the FEC terms "RFAIs" — requests for additional information which are essentially instructions to clean up errors and incomplete filings. In 2016 and 2017, McSally's congressional campaign received five more RFAIs, with regulators noting data for numerous donors was incomplete and "not considered acceptable," as well as further missed or inaccurate 48-hour contribution filings.

In comparison, former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber received just a single RFAI in his campaigns — about one instance in which his campaign was unable to comply with a requirement to disclose contributions within 48 hours of receipt in the days just before an election.

Southern Arizona's other sitting member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, last received an FEC letter in 2011, with just four issued over the past decade — although he has received 20 in all since first campaigning in 2002.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

McSally announcing her Senate run in January.