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Terry scolds Esch over campaign fund filings

Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., criticized Democratic challenger Jim Esch for failing last year to file timely campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

“He received several notices of failure to file and just refused to follow up on them until he decided to run for Congress again,” Terry said Wednesday.

“The fact that filling out 10 minutes’ worth of paperwork, that he would just completely, intentionally blow (that) off, is very concerning.”

Esch acknowledged oversights regarding his campaign finance reports, but he said he didn’t have any staff at that point and that he didn’t think he had to file.

“There was no activity going on — we weren’t raising any money, and we weren’t spending any money,” Esch said.

Esch is making his second bid to represent Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Terry defeated Esch in 2006.

Esch was supposed to either terminate the committee he formed for the 2006 campaign or continue filing reports on its activities. However, Esch stopped filing reports after the first quarter of 2007.

The FEC sent a notice in July 2007 that it had not received a second-quarter report from Esch. The commission sent another notice in October to alert Esch that he had failed to file a third-quarter report as well.

It was not until January that Esch filed both late reports and terminated the committee. He then started a new committee for his 2008 campaign.

Esch could have faced a fine over the late reports. However, the FEC isn’t able to levy fines against anyone at the moment because of too many vacancies on the panel.

Also, the commission’s fines are tied to the amount of financial activity covered by campaign finance reports, and in Esch’s case, that didn’t amount to much —a total of $165.

As for Esch’s new committee, the commission issued a “request for additional information” in connection with the first quarter of the year. That information should have been provided by last week, but Esch said Wednesday he was unsure whether his campaign had responded to the request yet.

Over the past decade, Terry has received 39 “requests for additional information” from the FEC. In 15 of those cases, the commission had to send the request a second time.

“That’s very common,” Terry said of such requests. “The issue is, are you going to follow up with that?”

Esch said his filing of reports is not as important as Terry’s performance representing the district.

“I agree with him — disclosure is important, and I certainly should be held accountable for that, just like he should be held accountable for his record, or lack thereof, in Congress,” Esch said.

He said Terry has passed only one bill over the course of nearly 10 years in Congress, and that measure was to name a post office.

Terry called Esch’s statements “baloney” and said he has offered many pieces of legislation, particularly on energy policy, that were folded into larger bills and passed.

He pointed to measures that instituted new vehicle fuel efficiency standards, promoted geothermal heat pumps and required federal fleet fueling centers to have E85 pumps.

Esch also is preparing a personal financial disclosure statement — a report required of all House and Senate members and candidates for Congress — that was due May 15. Esch said some mixups caused the delay in preparing the report.

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