A Hampstead man fined $1,000 by the Federal Election Commission for his role in hiding about $21,000 in 1988 presidential campaign contributions in a bank account belonging to the County Republican Central Committee said he was relieved by the ruling.
"I'm fine," Gary W. Bauer, 43, said of the penalty. "I'm just glad it's over with. I'm satisfied."
Bauer, who was treasurer for the federal campaign account, was fined for failing to fully identify contributors, failing to record correct dates of contributions and failing to try hard enough to get that information.
He said he decided a year ago to cooperate fully after answering written questions from the FEC, telling the agency in effect, "You make your decision. Whatever you decide, I'll go along with it."
The FEC probe began last spring after GOP Central Committee members learned that the money had been funneled into their federal account and demanded an explanation -- and state and federal investigations.
Sharon W. Hornberger, committee chairwoman at the time, told angry members she placed the money in the account at the request of Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, and other GOP officials, who were feuding with 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 members were misled into believing there was only $87 in the account -- until they wanted to close it out.
The committee had established the account for the presidential election and approved Bauer as its treasurer to keep the various political accounts separate.
The FEC investigation of the account hasn't been completed, said agency spokesman Fred S. Eiland. Until it is, he said, the law allows only individual respondents such as Bauer to discuss it.
Bauer was elected to the Central Committee last month. He said his 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.
Bauer said he knew the responsibility would be his in 1988 when Hornberger asked him to oversee the federal campaign account, and when he agreed to the use of the fund without other committee members' knowledge.
Besides hiding money from Fleming, he said, "We were trying to hide it from the Democrats," to keep them from learning how much was being raised -- or that some of their prominent members were contributing to the GOP.
Of the specific violations found by the FEC, Bauer said he thought others in the party were getting the necessary information about donors, such as their occupations.
However, he said 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.' " Eiland said the FEC's civil penalties range up to a $5,000 fine or the amount of the violation, whichever is greater, and, in cases of willful and knowing abuse, up to $10,000 or 200 percent of the violation.