WASHINGTON D.C. (August 10, 2010) — The Federal Election Commission has announced that it accepted a conciliation agreement with the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition PAC (ARDA-ROC PAC) and Sandra Yartin DePoy, in her official capacity as the committee’s treasurer, for misstating financial activity, receiving prohibited corporate and foreign national contributions and improperly soliciting contributions. Under the agreement, ARDA-ROC PAC’s total liability in the form of penalties, fines and restitution is over $900,000.
The FEC reports that in the normal course of carrying out its supervisory activities, the Commission discovered that ARDA-ROC PAC, the political committee associated with the American Resort Development Association – Resort Owners Coalition (ARDA-ROC) had received prohibited corporate and foreign national contributions, misstated its financial activity on reports filed with the Commission between 2003 and 2008 and solicited contributions from timeshare owners through periodic billings without including required disclaimers.
The Commission found reason to believe that ARDA-ROC PAC and DePoy, in her official capacity as treasurer, violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act). Under the Conciliation Agreement, the respondent agreed to pay a $300,000 civil penalty. In addition, the respondent agreed to transfer $562,538.75 to its member homeowners associations and $34,509 to ARDA-ROC, its connected organization. These amounts are equal to the stipulated amount of prohibited corporate and foreign national contributions received by the respondent from 2003 through 2007, less the $18,323 that the respondent already disgorged to the U.S. Treasury.
This is the largest fine imposed by the FEC since 2007.
The FEC disclosed in 2008 that timeshare owners had been misled into donating small amounts of money to ARDA-ROC PAC as part of the regular bills paid to their property management companies. The charges were billed to individual timeshare owners along with tax and maintenance fees as a “voluntary” ARDA-ROC fee, without disclosing that some of it would be contributed to political parties via the PAC. Records show that those small donations, generally from $3 to $10, totaled $8.4 million between 2003 and 2007. They were not itemized by the PAC.
While conceding that “errors were made” in the collection of contributions, ARDA called them “unintentional and unfortunate.” In response to the FEC’s audit, ARDA posted the following, undated, notice on its website at http://arda.org:
There was recently some misleading information circulated about ARDA-ROC PAC, in reference to a random Federal Election Commission (FEC) Audit of 2003-2004 voluntary contributions. As a result of the audit, ARDA implemented the FEC’s request to put uniform language about PAC contributions on owner invoices or in an accompanying letter. The following is the uniform message approved by the FEC and communicated to the PAC contributing homeowners associations (HOAs):
“Individual contributions to Federal political action committees are strictly voluntary and not tax deductible for federal income tax purposes. Corporations may not contribute to Federal PACs. Only U.S. citizens and permanent green card holders are eligible to contribute. Contributions from Foreign Nationals are strictly prohibited.”
In addition to uniform standards, ARDA has also retained a prominent data company to further ensure that we are in compliance. This is particularly important, given the sheer volume of the $3.00 to $10.00 individual contributions received to support homeowner advocacy.
ARDA is proud of the grassroots participation by hundreds of thousands of timeshare owners and their HOAs that support ARDA-ROC PAC. It is through their efforts that we are able to continue to protect the integrity of their timeshare purchase. Through ARDA-ROC PAC, we will continue to monitor regulatory proposals and proactively respond, to ensure owners are not adversely affected by ill-advised efforts to assess owners for property taxes beyond fair market value of like-sized condominiums, as well as to fight transient occupancy taxes when localities try to misapply these hotel taxes to timeshare owners and exchangers. ARDA ROC and ARDA-ROC PAC are true timeshare advocates and rely on the voluntary pledges of nearly one million timeshare owners.
The settlement order was approved unanimously by the six-member, bipartisan commission on July 29, 2010. The PAC has 90 days to comply.