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Discrepancies seen in Hoffman report

TIMES STAFF WRITER
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The Federal Elections Commission has asked congressional candidate Douglas L. Hoffman to explain two dozen discrepancies in his latest campaign finance report, including the amount of his small-dollar contributions.


Candidates are allowed to bundle together contributions that are less than $200, as long as the donation does not put the benefactor's total over $200 for the election cycle.


Mr. Hoffman, a certified public accountant and the Conservative Party candidate in last fall's 23rd Congressional District race, reported on a summary page that he took in $111,977 from small-dollar contributors. But in a separate section, those kinds of contributions were listed as $637,958.21.


The commission is giving Mr. Hoffman until Jan. 28 to correct the majority of the errors, which also include:


n Contributions that exceed federal limits on giving.


n Contributions from corporations, which are prohibited under federal law.


n Contributions received after the election, but applied to that election although the campaign was not in debt.


n Failing to file one or more notices about "last-minute" contributions.


n Failing to itemize contributions in the report that appeared in the "last-minute" notices.


n Listing payments that are unclear.


n Incorrect tallies for 14 of Mr. Hoffman's expenses and receipts for the election cycle.


"The campaign plans to respond to the FEC inquiry in a timely fashion," said Robert H. Ryan, Mr. Hoffman's campaign spokesman.


Failure to do so could result in an audit or fine.


Mr. Hoffman's campaign staff acknowledged Dec. 15 that it mistakenly reported a $2,000 contribution as $200,000 on its last report to the commission. Mr. Ryan said he was told by bookkeeping staff the $198,000 difference must be in the "under $200s."


That explanation, however, could create more confusion about the true amount of Mr. Hoffman's small-dollar contributions.


The candidate reported $1,501,012.36 in total receipts for the election cycle. If Mr. Hoffman's small-dollar contributions total $111,977 as reported, then 7.46 percent of his money came from people who gave less than $200.


But if Mr. Hoffman's small-dollar contributions total $835,958.21, which is the amount of his second reported number added to his $198,000 mistake, then 55.7 percent of his money came from people who gave less than $200.


The commission compiled a list of the 17 House races that were decided by special election since July 2007. In no instance did a candidate have more than 36.6 percent of the total receipts come from small-dollar donors.


Of the candidates who, like Mr. Hoffman, raised more than $1 million in a special campaign, no one had more than 31.24 percent of receipts come from small-dollar donors.


Rep. William L. Owens, Mr. Hoffman's Democratic rival in the 23rd race, took in $226,309.95 from small-dollar donors, which accounted for 18.1 percent of what he raised.


The commission also has found that Mr. Owens allegedly failed to file at least one required 48-hour notice.


He has been asked to respond by Thursday.


The commission, so far, has raised no issues with Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava's report.

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