WESTMINSTER -- A Hampstead man has agreed to a $1,000 fine from the Federal Election Commission for his role in stashing almost $21,000 in 1988 presidential campaign contributions in a bank account of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee.
Gary W. Bauer, 43, who was treasurer for the federal campaign account, said he was fined for failing to record correct dates of contributions, failing to fully identify contributors and failing to try hard enough to get the information.
The FEC investigation began last spring after a majority of the Central Committee learned that the money had been funneled into their federal account and demanded an explanation -- and state and federal investigations.
The committee chairwoman at the time, Sharon W. Hornberger, toldangry members that she had stashed the money at the request of Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, and other party officials, who were feuding with the former state party chairman, Daniel E. Fleming, and wanted to keep the money from him.
While the dollar amounts were properly reported to federal elections officials, most of the committee was misled into believing there was only $87 in the account -- until they wanted to close it out.
The committee had established the federal account for the presidential election and approved Mr. Bauer as its treasurer in order to keep the various political accounts separate.
The FEC investigation of the account hasn't been completed, said agency spokesman Fred S. Eiland, and until it is, the law allows only individual respondents such as Mr. Bauer to discuss it.
Mr. Bauer was elected to the Central Committee last month. He saidhis attorney told him there was a settlement the day before the Sept. 11 primary and, after learning the details, he told fellow party members last week.
"I'm fine," Mr. Bauer said of the penalty. "I'm just glad it's over with. I'm satisfied."
He said he decided after answering written questions from the FEC a year ago to enter the conciliation process, telling the FEC in effect, "You make your decision. Whatever you decide, I'll go along with it."
Mr. Bauer said he knew the responsibility would be his in 1988 when Ms. Hornberger asked him to be treasurer for the federal campaign account, and when he agreed to the use of the fund without other committee members' knowledge.
In addition to hiding money from Mr. Fleming, he said, "We were trying to hide it from the Democrats," to keep them from learning how much money was being raised -- or that some of their prominent memberswere contributing to the GOP campaign.
Of the specific violations found by the FEC, Mr. Bauer said he thought others in the party were getting the necessary information about donors, such as their occupations.
But he knew that he should have returned some of the checks he was given, because they were not deposited within 20 days as required by law.
"I should have rejected them, but still I deposited them anyway," he said. "Even though they were spent on legitimate campaign expenses, I should have said, 'Sorry, it's over the 20 days: I'm going to have to return it and ask the person to issue another check.' "
Mr. Eiland said the FEC's civil penalties range up to a $5,000 fine or the amount of the violation, whichever is greater, and higher in cases of willful and knowing abuse, up to $10,000 or 200 percent of the violation.