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N.J. Congressman Fined Over Parental Donations

June 14, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Federal Election Commission has assessed a $210,000 civil penalty in a settlement with New Jersey Rep. Michael Ferguson, who used money from his parents to finance his 2000 campaign.

Ferguson, a Republican in his second term, agreed to pay the penalty by June 30. As of March 31, he had $278,000 in his campaign treasury.

The FEC ruled that Thomas and Roberta Ferguson made $525,000 in excessive contributions, but the agreement between the FEC and the lawmaker also said that Ferguson, his parents and his campaign did not break campaign finance laws "knowingly and willfully."

Ferguson announced the settlement Friday, saying he believes that he did nothing wrong but wanted to avoid a long court battle with the FEC.

In winning election to an open seat in 2000, Ferguson was his own biggest financial backer, lending his campaign about one-third of the $2.25 million it spent. He ended his campaign with a $760,000 debt to himself.

During the campaign, New Jersey Democrats complained to the FEC that Ferguson had made loans illegally, using money received from his parents. Federal law at the time limited contributions from individuals -- even from parents -- to $1,000 per campaign.

Ferguson acknowledged that some of the money he put into the campaign came from his parents, but he said they gave it to him as a gift for estate-planning purposes, not as a campaign donation in disguise. Thomas Ferguson founded one of the world's leading health communications companies, now known as CommonHealth USA.

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