Illinois Review –
FEC’s Lerner tells conservative Al Salvi: “We never lose!”
CHICAGO – Former GOP U.S. Senate candidate Al Salvi’s (photo right)revelation this week that IRS official Lois Lerner offered to drop theFederal Election Commission’s (FEC) 1996 case against him if he promised to never run for office again was the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
“Before Lois Lerner (photo right) took us before the federal judge, her last offer was for me to promise to never run for office again. That was always part of their demands,” Salvi said. “Before that last offer, another FEC representative that reported to Lerner wanted $200,000 and a promise not to run.”
Knowing his $1.1 million campaign loan to himself was legal, Salvi rejected the initial settlement offer from FEC attorney Colleen Sealander. In later conversations, Sealander lowered the amount to $100,000, then $40,000, but always with the additional promise to never run for office again.
“Every time we talked, I refused the offer, and Colleen said she’d have to check with someone,” Salvi said. “I finally told her I’d like to talk to whomever she reported. That’s when I got a call from Lois Lerner.”
During that call, Salvi said, he explained to Lerner exactly what happened — that while the loan to himself was legal, there may be a difference of opinion on how the loan was reported to the FEC. Salvi explained it was a simple matter and said he thought Lerner would suggest an agreeable solution and dismiss the Democratic National Committee’s complaint.
But that was not Lerner’s reaction. Instead, that’s when she said to Salvi, “Promise me you’ll never run for office again, and we’ll drop the case.”
Salvi said he asked Lerner if she would be willing to put the offer into writing.
“We don’t do things that way,” Salvi said Lerner replied.
Salvi queried how then could such an agreement be enforced.
According to Salvi, Lerner replied: “You’ll find out.”
Without a settlement, the Salvi case went to federal court. After months and years of briefings, delays and court appearances, federal judge George Lindbergh dismissed the case on its merits. Lindbergh said the FEC’s disagreement over filing, when two ways of reporting were acceptable, was groundless. The FEC appealed Lindbergh’s decision, but their appeal was thrown back to Lindbergh’s decision and the Salvi campaign won. Court documents show that Salvi was never fined or penalized.
Sealander and Lerner made similar offers to Salvi and his legal counsel in the process leading up to the court proceedings. Salvi’s brother Mike and his wife Kathy led Salvi’s defense against a team of D.C. attorneys, who were flown into Chicago to appear before the judge, Salvi said.
Negotiations with those facing FEC complaints are part of standard procedure, an FEC spokesperson told Illinois Review, but records of those negotiation conversations are not available in court documents.