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Martinez campaign to pay fine for 2004 campaign miscues

Mel Martinez's campaign has agreed to pay a $99,000 fine for violating federal election law in his 2004 run for the Senate.

The campaign agreed to pay the fine in the wake of a Federal Election Commission finding that the campaign accepted contributions in excess of federal limits, and failed to properly report certain contributions and disclose proceeds received from joint fundraisers.

The violations occured during Martinez's 2004 run for election. Martinez narrowly defeated Democrat Betty Castor that year. In all, Martinez for Senate received more than $313,000 in excessive contributions, according to the FEC.

Federal law at the time capped individuals contributions at $2,000. The Martinez campaign "contends that any violations were inadvertent, and they have taken steps to remedy their internal compliance procedures,'' according to a seven page agreement between the FEC and the campaign.

Ben Ginsberg, a partner at Patton Boggs, the firm representing the campaign said in a statement that the 2004 campaign "brought in a large amount of resources in a very short period of time and accounting mistakes were made.

"The (campaign) committee worked closely and amicably with the FEC to conduct a full audit of the 2004 finances and remedy any problems that might have occurred," he said.

The campaign said that after it discovered "potential accounting errors," Martinez brought in a new treasurer and put practices in place to avoid the errors of the 2004 campaign.

Martinez said he was "delighted this matter is closed."

The campaign cooperated during the audit, the FEC said. After FEC auditors began investigating, Martinez's campaign refunded about $95,000 in excessive contributions. It agreed to remit another $11,500 in illegal contributions to the U.S. Treasury.

The campaign was allowed to keep another $218,000 in excessive contributions after they were properly re-designated to other legal campaign purposes.