House Candidate Isadore Hall Fined Over ‘Soft Money’

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Isadore Hall, a former California state senator who ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, has agreed to pay a $1,500 fine to the Federal Election Commission because a state ballot measure committee Hall controlled received illegal “soft money”—contributions that didn’t comply with federal contribution limits and restrictions.

The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, known as BCRA or the McCain-Feingold law, barred soft money contributions—including corporate or union money—to organizations controlled by federal candidates and officials.

The fine was paid by Hall’s ballot measure committee, Inspiration and Hope for California, according to newly released FEC documents. Hall’s settlement with the FEC also called for his ballot committee to return a $4,100 corporate contribution from Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., according to a conciliation agreement included in the FEC documents. The agreement resolved an enforcement case designated Matter Under Review (MUR) 6957.

Hall Lost to Barragan

Hall, a Democrat, entered the open primary for a California U.S. House seat last year. After finishing among the top two primary contenders, he lost the general election to a fellow Democrat, now-Rep. Nanette Barragan.

The settlement between the FEC and Hall’s campaign and ballot measure committees was approved by a 6-0 vote of the FEC commissioners, according to the agency documents.

Hall initially contended to the FEC that he didn’t violate federal campaign finance law because he hadn’t made a final decision to run for Congress at the time the corporate contribution was received by his ballot measure committee. However, FEC staffers in the agency general counsel’s office concluded Hall was a federal candidate at that time, according to a general counsel’s report.

FEC Report: Hall Was Candidate

In 2015 and early 2016, Hall filed a statement of candidacy and registered a federal campaign committee with the FEC, the FEC counsel’s report said. Those actions were taken before his ballot committee received the $4,100 corporate contribution from Anheuser-Busch.

In addition, Hall’s public statements clearly indicted he had decided to run for Congress when former Rep. Janet Hahn (D) announced she wasn’t running for re-election in the Los Angeles-area congressional district where Hall lives.

“There is ample evidence in Hall’s reported public statements and materials available on his social media platforms that he became a federal candidate in February 2015,” the FEC counsel’s report concluded. When news reports indicated Hahn might not seek re-election to Congress and would instead run for Los Angeles County supervisor, Hall announced that, if Hahn chose not to, “I will run for the 44th [District] congressional seat—regardless of who else enters the race.”

Hall’s congressional committee filed its first report with the FEC in April 2015, disclosing almost $150,000 in contributions. The campaign raised nearly $2 million over the course of the 2016 election cycle but ended up with more than $500,000 in debts, according to disclosure reports filed with the FEC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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