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Filing flap in the 14th Congressional District race
Oberweis flouting law, Democrats allege
By Lisa Smith | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/29/2008 12:06 AM

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Accusing Republican congressional candidate Jim Oberweis of attempting to flout campaign finance law, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

Oberweis failed to file a specific FEC form and notify both his Democratic opponent, Bill Foster, and Democratic party leaders within 24 hours of loaning his campaign more than $350,000 -- a requirement under the so-called Millionaire's Amendment in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Oberweis and Foster are running in the March 8 special election to replace retired U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert in the 14th Congressional District.

Triggering the Millionaire's Amendment turns the race into a virtual financial free-for-all by increasing individual contributors' limits from $2,300 to $6,900 and allowing the state and national party committees to dump an unlimited amount of money into their candidate's campaign coffers.

Oberweis campaign officials claim the errors were unintentional. In two separate transactions since the Feb. 5 primary election, Oberweis loaned his campaign $640,000; $300,000 was allocated toward the special election and $340,000 toward the general election, campaign spokesman Bill Pascoe said.

The campaign's original finance report, submitted Monday, failed to make the distinction between the two elections, so it was amended, Pascoe said.

"It got filed inaccurately at the FEC," Pascoe said of the campaign disclosure form. "We said, 'Oops, sorry, (and) corrected it on the (FEC) Web site with an amended filing."

Pascoe went on to call the complaint "a standard campaign tactic in the Democratic playbook."

"We believe we are in full compliance with both the letter and the spirit of campaign finance law," Pascoe said.

The Democrats say the campaign finance filing snafu is part of a pattern of Oberweis violating election law in his attempt to deceive voters. On Wednesday, at least two local TV stations pulled a 30-second Oberweis campaign commercial because Oberweis failed to include the standard "I approved this message" statement at the end of the ad in violation of Federal Communications Commission regulations.

"Jim Oberweis acts like the rules and law don't apply to him," said Jennifer Crider, the DCCC's communications director.

An FEC spokesman said the agency had not yet received the complaint Thursday afternoon. Because the commission's review process is so lengthy, no action could be taken before next week's special election.

But a violation determination could result in the FEC imposing on Oberweis a civil penalty totaling tens of thousands of dollars, as it did after Oberweis' 2004 U.S. Senate campaign when he appeared in and coordinated TV commercials paid for by Oberweis Dairy within 120 days of the primary election.

"Jim Oberweis is running for Congress, but he seems to have a problem following the law," Foster said. "I think people are ready for a change."