Writing business

FEC hits marathon with $85,000 fine for campaign finance violations

  • The Federal Election Commission fined Marathon Petroleum Company $85,000 in February.
  • Because Marathon has contracts with the federal government, it is prohibited from making political contributions.
  • The oil refining and transportation company donates $500,000 each to 2 Republican political committees.

The Federal Election Commission has fined Marathon Petroleum Company $85,000 after it illegally paid $1 million to two political action committees supporting the re-election campaigns of House and Senate Republicans.

In the summer of 2020, the oil refinery and transportation giant donated $500,000 each to the Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund, two political action committees that spend money in ads to boost Republicans in the Senate and House elections, respectively.

But there was a problem: Marathon has contracts with the federal government, and federal campaign finance laws prohibit federal contractors from making political contributions when negotiating or performing federal contracts.

In October 2020, the Campaign Legal Center lodged a complaint with the commission. The two political action committees quickly informed the committee the following month that they did not know Marathon was a federal contractor at the time they received the contributions.

In his own answer from January 2021Marathon argued that “it had not historically entered into contracts with the federal government” and that the company’s attorneys were “unaware” that the company was “negotiating, entering into, or performing a contract with the federal government at the time of the contribution”.

The oil giant asked the commission to exercise discretion and simply dismiss the complaint, arguing that the contributions had already been refunded and that the contributions were the result of “innocent oversight”.

But the commission’s legal counsel disagreed, writing in August 2021 that Marathon’s “argument that its federal contract work represented a ‘small percentage’ of its business does not negate the status of the business as a federal contractor”.

Additionally, they wrote that the company’s $1 million in political spending was “the single largest contribution by a federal contractor to a [outside spending group] that the Commission considered in an enforcement case.”

In February, the committee voted unanimously accept a conciliation agreement with the companyleaving Marathon with the $85,000 fine and a pledge to stop breaking campaign finance laws.

The company paid the fine Last week.

That’s not the only fine the commission has levied last month on federal contractors who made political contributions.

The committee also hit the 3m company with a $4,500 fine after donating $50,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund in 2018, and press TonerQuest with a $4,700 fine after donating $25,000 to America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, in 2019.