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National Congressional Club

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The National Congressional Club (NCC) was formed in 1972 by R.E. Carter Wrenn and attorney Tom Ellis to help Jesse Helms (R-NC) "pay off the debts incurred during his 1972 Senate campaign. (Ellis' law firm also handled the dispute with the Justice Department)." Ellis retained Richard Viguerie, with whom he "built the Congressional Club mailing list to more than 300,000 regular contributors." [1][2]

The NCC helped build Helms' national reputation and get Ronald Reagan elected president. In 1985, backed by Helms, the NCC was the nation's second-largest political action committee, that supported conservative candidates. Wrenn was then NCC executive director. [3][4]

The NCC "raised $9.8 million in the 1982 election cycle. In the 1984 cycle, the club raised $5.7 million while Helms campaign committee raised $13.99 million, a record in a Senate contest." At the time, the NCC "financially [eclipsed] North Carolina's Democratic and Republic Parties, each of which [operated] on annual budgets of less than $500,000." [5]

The FEC Lawsuit

The FEC lawsuit charged that the NCC used Jefferson Marketing, Inc. to "channel illegal contributions into a political campaign" and charged Jefferson Marketing with providing "fund-raising, media and other campaign services to candidates at 'less than the fair market value'. ... If a corporation, such as Jefferson Marketing does not charge a campaign fair market value for its services, the corporation is making illegal contributions, because corporations cannot contribute to federal candidates and because the contributions were not reported, according to federal election law." [6]

FEC Ruling

"On May 15, 1986, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a consent order agreed to by the Federal Election Commission and three defendants: the National Congressional Club (NCC), a multicandidate political committee; NCC's treasurer, R.E. Carter Wrenn; and Jefferson Marketing, Inc., a North Carolina corporation that provides media services to political committees. Plaintiff and defendants agreed that:

  • Since NCC and JMI had operated as a single entity, NCC and its treasurer, R.E. Carter Wrenn, had violated section 434 of the election law by failing to report JMI's financial activity; and
  • Within 30 days of the court's order, defendants would pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the U.S. Treasury for these violations.

"Furthermore, defendants no longer contested the FEC's allegation that JMI had violated section 441b of the election law by charging less than the fair market value for services JMI had provided to federal candidates."

Source: FEC v. National Congressional Club, FEC Record, July 1986, p. 7.

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