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Federal Election Commission
Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Act: The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (Pub. L. 92-225), as amended in 1974 (Pub. L. 93-443), 1976 (Pub. L. 94-283), 1980 (Pub. L. 96-187), and 2002 (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-155).

ADR: See Alternative Dispute Resolution Program.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Procedures for resolving enforcement matters based on the mutual agreement between the parties. The FEC established the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) office to provide parties with an alternative method for resolving complaints that have been filed against them or for addressing issues identified in the course of an FEC audit or RAD referral. The program is designed to promote compliance with the federal campaign finance law and Commission regulations, and to reduce the cost of processing complaints by encouraging settlements outside the agency’s normal enforcement track.

Administrative Fine: A fine assessed by the Administrative Five Program. This program allows the Commission to assess civil money penalties for violations involving: failure to file reports on time; failure to file reports at all; and failure to file last-minute (48-hour) notices of certain campaign contributions. The program is administered by the Office of Administrative Review (OAR). See AF and OAR.

AF: See Administrative Fine and OAR.

Agenda Date: The date on which an issue is brought before the Commission in Open or Executive (closed) Session.

Audit Division: The branch of the Commission that conducts audits of federal political committees’ financial activity, in order to ensure compliance with the Act and Commission regulations.

Audit Referral: A potential violation of the Act or Commission regulations that the Audit Division had discovered through the course of an audit and had referred the matter to the Office of General Counsel for review.

Candidate: An individual seeking election to federal office who has or agents acting on his or her behalf who have raised contributions or made expenditures exceeding $5,000.

Case Closed: The date the Commission approves the final determination of a matter for all respondents.

Case Opened: The date the Commission receives an external complaint that satisfies specific criteria or an internal referral from another agency or the date an internal referral is received in OGC from the Audit or Report Analysis Divisions.

Central Enforcement Docket. . A former section of the Office of General Counsel now known as Complaints Examination and Legal Administration. See CED and CELA.

CED: See Central Enforcement Docket

CELA: See Complaints Examination and Legal Administration.

Complaints Examination and Legal Administration: A section in the Office of General Counsel that is the entry point for enforcement matters. The office processes and manages all incoming complaints, referrals from the Audit and Reports Analysis Divisions and referrals from other government agencies. See CED and CELA.

Certification: An official validation of a Commission vote, or votes, signed by the Commission Secretary. The certification identifies the item(s) voted on, as well as the position of each Commissioner voting on the matter. Absent, abstained or recused Commissioners are recorded as such.

Civil Penalty: A monetary penalty negotiated by the Commission and respondent(s) for violations of the Act and/or Commission regulations.

Closed: When looking at the "Citations" section in the Case Summary, "Closed" is used in the "Stage" column for a particular respondent to denote the statutory and/or regulatory citations indicating that a case has been closed with respect to that respondent.

Complainant: Person(s) who file or refer a complaint to the Commission.

Complaint: A formal written assertion filed with the Commission by any person who believes a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act, Title 26, or Commission regulations has occurred or is about to occur. In order to be considered complete and proper the document must satisfy certain specific criteria.

Conciliation Agreement: An agreement reached by a respondent and the Commission. Generally, such an agreement includes a description of the facts and the law, admissions of the violations by the respondent, conduct prohibition, any remedial actions the respondent must take and a provision for the payment of a civil penalty by the respondent.

Conciliation - Pre-Probable Cause. When the Commission finds Reason To Believe (RTB) a violation has occurred, the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) or the respondent may request that the matter be resolved through pre-probable cause conciliation negotiations. If the matter is not resolved in pre-probable cause conciliation, the OGC may recommend the Commission take no further action regarding a respondent or recommend that the Commission proceed to the probable cause to believe stage. See also: Final Commission Disposition.

Conciliation-PPC: See Conciliation - Pre-Probable Cause.

Conciliation - Probable Cause. Upon finding Probable Cause (PC) a violation has occurred, the Commission is statutorily obligated to enter into conciliation negotiations with the respondent. 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(4)(A)(i) Unlike pre-probable cause conciliation which has no legal limit on its duration, the Commission has a statutory duty to conciliate for a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 90 days following a finding of probable cause to believe. If negotiations fail, the Commission may determine to seek judicial enforcement. See also: Final Commission Disposition.

Conciliation-PC: See Conciliation - Probable Cause.

Disgorgement: Funds representing illegal contributions that are turned over to the United States Treasury.

Dismissed - Low Rated: Cases dismissed under the EPS fall into two categories: low-rated cases and stale cases. Low rated cases are those that do not warrant the further use of the Commission´s resources to pursue because of their lesser significance relative to other pending matters. See also: EPS: Enforcement Priority System.

Dismissed - Other: Cases where the Commission has voted to "take no further action" and close the file as to that respondent.

Dismissed - Stale: Cases dismissed under the EPS fall into two categories: low-rated cases and stale cases. Stale cases are those that initially received a higher rating but have remained unassigned for a significant period due to a lack of staff resources for effective investigation. The utility of commencing an investigation declines as these cases age, until they reach a point where opening an investigation would not be an efficient use of the Commission´s resources. As cases reach this point, they are recommended for dismissal. See also: EPS: Enforcement Priority System.

Enforcement Priority System. This system rates all incoming cases against objective criteria to determine their relative priority and to determine whether they warrant use of the Commission´s limited resources. See EPS and Dismissed - Low Rated and Dismissed - Stale.

EPS: See Enforcement Priority System.

FEC Enforcement: Complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) or internal referrals to the Office of General Counsel or the Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, and late reporting violation matters handled by the Administrative Fine Program.

Final Commission Disposition: Final determination of an enforcement matter. See: No RTB, RTB/NFA, No Probable Cause, Probable Cause/NFA, Conciliation-Pre-Probable Cause, Conciliation-Probable Cause, Dismissed-low rated, Dismissed-stale, Dismissed-other

General Counsel's Brief. After the Commission finds RTB and an investigation is completed, the General Counsel prepares a brief that explains the factual and legal issues of the case and recommends whether the Commission should find there is probable cause to believe a violation has occurred or is about to occur. The respondent is sent a copy of the brief and has 15 days to file a reply brief explaining the respondent's position.

GC's Brief: See General Counsel's Brief.

Matter Under Review. Formal name for a Commission investigation. See MUR.

Mediation: The stage in the Alternative Dispute Resolution process agreed to by both parties in the event a settlement cannot be reached during bilateral negotiations, that involves the use of a neutral third party - the mediator - in assisting the respondent and the Commission in resolving a dispute.

MUR: See Matter Under Review.

Negotiations: The initial step in the Commission´s ADR program that provides for direct informal, bilateral discussions with respondents aimed at resolving a complaint or internal referral.

No Further Action: The Commission can close a case at any point after reviewing a proper complaint. See NFA and Final Commission Disposition.

NFA: See No Further Action.

No PCTB: See No Probable Cause to Believe.

No Probable Cause to Believe: If the Commission decides there is no probable cause to believe, the case is closed and the parties are notified. See No PCTB and Final Commission Disposition.

No Reason to Believe: If the Commission decides there is no reason to believe a violation has occurred or is about to occur with respect to all of the allegations, the case is closed and the parties involved are notified. See No RTB and Final Commission Disposition.

No RTB: See No Reason to Believe.

OAR: See Office of Administrative Review and Administrative Fine.

Office of Administrative Review: Established in 2000 after statutory amendments permitted the Commission to impose civil money penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements. See OAR and Administrative Fine.

Office of the General Counsel: The Office of the General Counsel consists of five divisions, one of which is the Enforcement Division. The Enforcement Division investigates alleged violations of the law, negotiates conciliation agreements and recommends civil penalties for individuals and entities that have violated the Act.

OGC: See Office of the General Counsel.

PCTB: See Probable Cause to Believe.

Probable Cause to Believe: Following completion of its investigation, the Office of General Counsel prepared a brief stating its position on the legal and factual issues of the case and containing recommendations as to whether or not the Commission should find Probable Cause to Believe. The brief is sent to the respondent who then has 15 days after receipt to submit a reply. After receipt of the respondent’s reply, OGC submits a report to the Commission with a recommendation as to whether there is probable cause to believe a violation of the Act has occurred or is about to occur. See PCTB.

Probable Cause/NFA: In some cases the Commission may find probable cause that a violation has occurred or is about to occur and decide to take no further action. See also: Final Commission Disposition.

PRE-MUR: Referrals from other government agencies are know as Pre-MURs and are numbered sequentially upon receipt in docket. Sua sponte matters, those which an entity voluntarily discloses facts and circumstances that describe a violation of the Act it has committed, are also designated a Pre-MUR.

RAD: See Reports Analysis Division.

Reports Analysis Division. The branch of the Commission that reviews the reports filed by federal political committees and monitors compliance reporting provisions of the Act. See RAD.

RAD Referral: A potential violation of the Act or Commission regulations that the Reports Analysis Division had discovered through the course of its review of a political committee disclosure reports and had referred the matter to the Office of General Counsel for review. See RR.

RR: See RAD Referral.

Regulatory Citation: The portion of Commission regulations that is at issue in a complaint. The Commission´s regulations are contained within Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

NOTE: the statute and/or regulations may have changed between the date of the violation and the date the Commission disposes of the case. However, the legal analysis for a violation is based on the statutory/regulatory provisions in effect on the date of the violation. See also: Statutory Citation.

Respondent: Each person, committee or group that is alleged to have committed a violation of the Act.

Respondent´s Counsel: Legal counsel representing a respondent. A respondent who wants to be represented by counsel must inform the Commission by sending a "statement of designation of counsel".

Reason-to-Believe: The initial vote taken by the Commission on a MUR to determine whether the Commission will proceed with a formal investigation or authorize pre-probable cause conciliation. The Office of General Counsel recommends whether or not there is "reason to believe" the respondent has committed or is about to commit a violation. If the Commission finds that there is "reason to believe" the respondent has violated or is about to violate the law, the Commission opens an investigation. See RTB.

Representative: Any person designated by the respondent in an ADR matter to represent them in the matter. A Designation of Representative/Counsel must be completed and returned to the ADR office.

RTB: See Reason to Believe.

RTB/NFA -- Reason-to-Believe/No Further Action: While the Commission may find reason to believe that a violation has occurred or is about to occur, it may nevertheless decide to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to take no further action. See also: Final Commission Disposition.

Settlement Agreement: A negotiated agreement reached by a respondent and the Commission in an ADR matter. Generally, the agreement includes a listing of the facts and the law, a description of the violations by the respondent, conduct prohibition, any remedial actions the respondent must take and the payment of a civil penalty by the respondent, if appropriate.

Stage: One of the various steps "from receipt to final disposition" of a complaint.

Statement of Reasons: An explanation of a vote on a MUR where the Commission rejects the recommendation of the General Counsel to go forward resulting in dismissal of the entire complaint, or of a respondent, or of a particular allegation in a complaint.

Statutory Citation: The portion of the statute/Act that is at issue in the complaint. The Act (Federal Election Campaign Act) is contained within Title 2 of the United States Code. Other important provisions, notably the public finding of Presidential election campaigns, are contained within Title 26 U.S.C. of the United States Code.

NOTE: the statute and/or regulations may have changed between the date of the violation and the date the Commission disposes of the case. However, the legal analysis for a violation is based on the statutory/regulatory provisions in effect on the date of the violation. See also: Regulatory Citation.

Tally Vote: A circulation of a matter among the Commissioners´ offices for a vote outside a formal meeting.

Vote Date: Date the Commission votes on a matter. In the case of a tally vote, the vote date is the day the circulation period ends and all Commissioner ballots are due.

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