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Documents on Enforcement & Compliance Practices

Following oversight hearings on November 3, 2011 before the Subcommittee on Elections of the House of Representatives Committee on House Administration, the Commission released a number of documents relating to the enforcement and compliance processes.

The Commission has worked to further transparency and is pleased to advance this agency goal by making these internal documents available to the public.

The documents, which can be found at the links below, fall into three categories:

(1) Enforcement Documents
(2) Reports Analysis Division Documents
(3) Audit Division Documents

None of the documents made public in this collection bind the Commission, nor do they create substantive or procedural rights.

Enforcement Documents

The 1997 enforcement manual and additional enforcement materials were compiled as internal guidance to Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) staff. These materials are not a definitive or binding set of procedures, and were neither reviewed nor adopted by the Commission.

More recently, the Commission has adopted various policies designed to provide the public with additional information about the way the Commission makes decisions and operates, along with providing respondents with certain procedural safeguards. These policies were adopted in public and are available on the “Policy Statements, Interpretive Rules and Other Guidance” webpage.

Further, in May 2012, the Commission updated the “Guidebook for Complainants and Respondents on the FEC Enforcement Process” to reflect new enforcement-related policies adopted by the Commission. For current information on these topics, please refer to the Guidebook for Complainants and Respondents.

Enforcement Manual (dated November 1997)

This is an internal manual, much of which was compiled in 1997 by the Enforcement Division of OGC. This document has not been formally updated, and much of the information it contains has been superseded. The 1997 manual contains seven chapters, each addressing a different stage of the enforcement process as it existed some 15 years ago. The 1997 manual is organized to reflect the sequence of the enforcement process, beginning with the processing of complaints and referrals, and ending with a description of closeout procedures for Matters Under Review (“MURs”). It also contains a number of addenda addressing specific issues, as well as a guide on troubleshooting and proofreading documents. OGC is in the process of preparing a revised Enforcement Manual. OGC hopes to complete the formal Manual in 2013, and the Commission will make it available to the public at that time.

Additional Enforcement Materials

Also provided is a set of materials relating to certain historical enforcement procedures and practices. The collection, initiated in 1986 and compiled periodically, includes documents that might serve as reminders or guidance for Enforcement Division staff on a variety of substantive and procedural aspects of their work. The types of documents in this collection include emails, internal memoranda, summaries of Commission sessions and staff meetings, and Commission-approved procedures and directives. Like the 1997 manual, these materials reference past, non-binding practices and informal guidance within the agency. Enforcement staff do not routinely refer to these materials.

Included in these materials is a chart entitled “Calculating Opening Settlement Offers for Non-Knowing and Willful Violations.” This chart is a compilation prepared by OGC memorializing the base formulas used by the Commission, to varying degrees in the past, to calculate opening settlement offers in individual enforcement MURs. OGC created the chart as a means to provide consistency between its recommendations to the Commission and the Commission’s previous formal votes in other similar MURs. Depending on the circumstances of the matter, OGC has recommended, and the Commission has authorized, penalties either higher or lower than those set forth in the chart. The information in the chart reflects past opening settlement offers, not amounts that result after negotiations with a respondent. The Commission makes final settlement amounts public by placing approved Conciliation Agreements on its website.

Reports Analysis Division Documents

The Commission is also releasing the document the Reports Analysis Division (“RAD”) uses in conducting its regular review of disclosure reports filed with the Commission. This document contains the procedures by which RAD conducts its regular review of reports filed by political committees and other filing entities, and by which it refers potential violations of the reporting requirements of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (“the Act”), for possible enforcement action, whether through OGC, the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution, or the Administrative Fines Program.

This document is revised every two years, corresponding with the election cycle, and is submitted to and ultimately approved by the Commission. The document is being provided in redacted form to protect the confidentiality of certain information concerning the Commission’s thresholds for taking particular actions.

In addition, more information is available on the "Reports Analysis Division FAQ" webpage.

Audit Division Documents

The Commission is releasing Audit documents that contain the materiality thresholds by which the Audit Division determines if an issue is significant enough to warrant inclusion as a finding in an audit report and is subsequently referable for possible enforcement action, whether through the OGC, the Office of Alternative Resolution, or the Administrative Fines Program.

Each Title 2 document is revised every two years and each Title 26 document is revised every four years, corresponding with the election cycle, and is submitted to and ultimately approved by the Commission. The documents are being provided in redacted form to protect the confidentiality of certain information concerning the Commission’s thresholds for taking particular action.

In addition, more information is available in the "The Audit Process –What to Expect" brochure.

If you have questions or seek further information about the Enforcement Division documents, please contact Stephen Gura, Deputy Associate General Counsel-Enforcement, at For questions about the RAD Procedures, please contact Debbie Chacona, Assistant Staff Director, RAD, at, and for questions about the Audit Division documents, please contact Thomas Hintermister, Assistant Staff Director, Audit Division, at