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Deseret News Quotes Matthew Sanderson on Possible Illegal Campaign Donations Made by Businessman Jeremy Johnson

June 5, 2014, Deseret News

Matthew T. Sanderson  is quoted by Deseret News concerning the questionable campaign contributions made by St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson. Johnson told investigators he made $150,000 in campaign contributions to Senator Mike Lee and former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in other people's names — a violation of federal election law. The Alliance for a Better Utah said Thursday a complaint to the Federal Election Commission is being prepared to investigate "illegal election activity" in Senator Lee's campaign. For the complete article, please visit Deseret News' website.

Excerpt taken from the article.

Matthew Sanderson, a political law attorney with the Washington, D.C., firm of Caplin & Drysdale, said the Federal Election Commission can be tough on those involved with arranging so-called "straw" donations to a campaign.

"There's a strict prohibition on that. As campaign finance rules go, this is one of the things that can still get you in trouble," Sanderson said, noting violators can face both civil and criminal penalties, including prison time.

The Federal Election Commission usually does not go after candidates, he said.

"It would be exceedingly rare," Sanderson said.

In this case, there would have to be a situation where Lee "was in the mode of what Swallow allegedly did, which was arrange for donations."

It's more likely the commission will focus on Johnson and Swallow, given the roles they allegedly played in getting the contributions.

"I don't know that they'll do that. Generally, they're the people who have the most exposure," Sanderson said.

Lee would have to return any money determined to have been donated illegally, Sanderson said. But it can take two to three years for the commission to even decide to investigate, he said, and then six months to a year to come to a conclusion.

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