Unpaid invoices prevent Gingrich and Judge Jeanine from closing campaigns

  • Unpaid campaigns required to continue filing reports with the FEC
  • Former Rep Michael Grimm also has unpaid campaign debt

Nearly two dozen former lawmakers and candidates are currently banned from closing campaign committees due to unpaid bills, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Fox News commentator Jeanine Pirro and former Rep. Michael Grimm.

The Federal Election Commission insists that debts be paid because unpaid debts could be considered illegal contributions to the campaign. This means that former candidates with unpaid debts are required to file disclosure reports with the FEC, even years after their political careers have ended.

Judge Jeanine Pirro - (Photo by Mike Theiler / AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Theiler / AFP via Getty Images)
Judge Jeanine Pirro

Some of those who owe money, according to election lawyer Brett Kappel, include savvy political agents – consultants, lawyers, accountants and others – who are ideologically ready to accept candidates knowing they might not pay. .

Others “get burned” by deadbeat candidates, he added, including small businesses like sign printers, event hosts and others who do not regularly work with campaigns. . “These are the people who unwittingly and indirectly fund campaigns,” Kappel said.

Grimm, Gingrich’s debt

Grimm (RN.Y.) owed more than $ 400,000 to Washington Squire law firm Patton Boggs, which helped him represent him in the scandal that led to his 2014 tax conviction and resignation of Congress. Grimm’s campaign claimed in a report filed with the FEC that he settled the debt “by mutual agreement” by paying the company $ 25,000.

The FEC said that was not enough and continued to insist in a letter sent this month that Grimm’s committee file disclosure reports until his debts are resolved.

The campaign treasurer who filed Grimm’s report did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Grimm lost a main challenge in 2018 to his Republican successor after serving more than seven months in prison for tax evasion. He said he plans to run again to reclaim his old House seat in New York’s 11th District, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.

Gingrich (R-Ga.) Had more than $ 4.6 million in campaign debt owed to a total of 114 creditors, including consultants, fundraisers and a charter airline, after abandoning his 2012 presidential campaign. Gingrich’s campaign told the FEC in a 2016 file, he did not plan to pay any of his debts but still wanted to close his doors. The Commission rejected this plan.

Gingrich has not tried to represent himself, but he remains in the news as a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump and husband of Callista Gingrich, the United States’ ambassador to the Vatican. A lawyer representing his campaign did not respond to an email requesting comment.

‘Judge Jeanine’

Pirro, the Fox News commentator known as “Judge Jeanine,” is also a prominent supporter of Trump. She owed more than $ 850,000 when she dropped out of a 2006 campaign for the Republican nomination in New York to challenge Sen. Hillary Clinton (D). Pirro claimed in an FEC file earlier this year that his debts were written off under New York State law.

“These debts, based on a contract, are not recoverable because the [New York state] the six-year statute of limitations has long passed, ”read an unsigned handwritten note on the report.

The FEC did not accept this explanation. Pirro’s campaign has resumed filing quarterly FEC disclosure reports this year after going years without filing reports and receiving notices that reports are still required.

The commission has authorized the closure of some campaigns with only partial debt payments, but each debt settlement plan must be individually reviewed and approved. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) was allowed shutting down his 2016 presidential campaign after fundraising efforts helped pay off about half of the nearly $ 130,000 in net debt owed. He ended his campaign in December 2017, nearly a year after abandoning his candidacy for the Republican nomination.

Others took longer. John Glenn, the astronaut and Democratic Senator from Ohio, abandoned a presidential candidacy in 1984 but had to continue filing FEC reports for his presidential campaign committee for more than two decades thereafter. Glenn’s presidential campaign was “Administratively completed” in 2006, eight years after leaving the Senate and a decade before Glenn’s death in 2016. The campaign still had nearly 2.7 million in debt.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at [email protected]; Kyle Trygstad at [email protected]


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