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U.S. v. Curran

filed: March 30, 1994.



Before: Becker, Nygaard, and Weis, Circuit Judges.

Author: Weis


WEIS, Circuit Judge.

This case arose as the result of the defendant's actions in arranging to reimburse individuals for contributions they had made at the defendant's instigation to the campaign funds of candidates for federal offices. Defendant was convicted on charges of causing election campaign treasurers to submit false reports to the Federal Election Commission in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2(b) and 1001, the false statements statute. He was also convicted on a conspiracy charge under 18 U.S.C. § 371 based on the same conduct. We will grant a new trial because the jury charge erroneously defined the defendant's duty to the Commission and failed to adequately explain the intent requirement under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2(b) and 1001. We reject, however, the defendant's contention that the three-year statute of limitations in the Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. § 455(a), applies to the offenses for which defendant was convicted under 18 U.S.C.

§§ 2(b), 371, and 1001.

In addition to maintaining an active law practice, defendant James J. Curran, Jr. served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Reading Anthracite Company in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. During the period from September 1984 to October 1987, defendant asked a number of his employees to write out personal checks payable to the election campaigns of designated candidates for federal political offices. Defendant then reimbursed each of the employees in cash for the amount of the checks. A similar pattern was followed for state elections.

A typical example of the arrangement occurred in 1987, when defendant reimbursed Deborah Smink, an employee of the company who had written a check for $1,000 to the "Gephardt for President" committee. Defendant also gave her a list of candidates, the desired number and amounts of personal checks that she was to obtain from other employees, and cash for reimbursement of those checks. Ms. Smink carried out these instructions and later gave defendant index cards containing the names, addresses, and occupations of the persons providing the checks. At other times, employees were contacted directly by defendant.

The employees testified that defendant had explained to them that if the Curran-endorsed candidates were successful in their bids for federal political office, they might be expected to favor the anthracite industry. The testimony also revealed that the contributions were made to candidates from both the Republican and Democratic Parties.

Some employees testified that they wrote the checks as a favor to defendant, simply because he had asked them to do so. A few of them had a limited understanding of election law requirements, but realized that they would be identified as contributors. Others indicated that they knew the check writing routine was "wrong."

Defendant testified that he was aware that corporate funds could not be used for federal election campaigns and that there was an annual limit of $4,000 that a husband and wife could contribute to a particular candidate, a limitation that he respected. On six occasions, however, between 1984 and 1987, he exceeded the $1,000 individual contribution limitation for each federal election.

Defendant asserted that his reason for not making contributions in his own name was to avoid being asked for money by other candidates and to allay his concerns for the welfare of his family. He conceded that he knew candidates kept records of contributors on file. He testified that he "was not focused on the Federal Election Commission," that he didn't remember ever hearing about it, and that he "didn't focus on" whether it monitored federal campaign contributions.

The jury found defendant guilty of one count of conspiracy to impede the performance of the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission and to cause false contribution reports to be filed with it. In addition, he was convicted of three counts of violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 2(b) and 1001 by causing the treasurers of various campaign committees to conceal material facts from the Commission and by causing the treasurers to submit false contribution reports.

After the district court denied his post-trial motions, defendant appealed, asserting:

(1) the trial Judge erred in charging the jury that the government did not have to prove that defendant knew of the Election Campaign Act's reporting requirements or that his contributions would be reported to a federal agency;

(2) the trial Judge erred in refusing to submit to the jury the issue of whether there were multiple conspiracies rather than a single one as the indictment charged; and

(3) the prosecution was barred by the three-year statute of limitations included in the Election Campaign Act.



The keystone of the government's case against defendant was its contention that he violated 18 U.S.C. §§ 2(b) and 1001 by causing material facts to be concealed or false statements to be made to a federal agency. Section 1001 is not confined to election matters and is governed by the five-year statute of limitations generally applicable to the criminal code provisions of Title 18. See 18 U.S.C. § 3282.

Defendant asserts that because his alleged misconduct occurred in connection with campaign contributions, the three-year limitations period in Title 2 that is specifically applicable to such offenses should be applied. See 2 U.S.C.

§ 455(a). A review of the legislative chronology is necessary to understand the defendant's position.

Before 1972, federal campaign contributions were regulated by certain sections of Title 18 of the United States Code and were governed by the five-year statute of limitations. 18 U.S.C. § 3282. Early that year, however, Congress enacted a comprehensive statute entitled the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 2 U.S.C. §§ 431-454 (Supp. II 1972) -- legislation that supplemented the campaign contribution restrictions codified in Title 18. The new Act included a provision that prohibited making contributions in the name of another. Pub. L. No. 92-225, § 310, 86 Stat. 3, 19 (1972). Although the five-year statute of limitations in Title 18 remained in effect, no such limitations period was included in the initial version of the Election Campaign Act.

In 1974, Congress amended the Act by creating the Federal Election Commission, by limiting the permissible amount of individual contributions, by requiring record keeping and reporting, and by providing procedures for civil and criminal enforcement. Pub. L. No. 93-443, 88 Stat. 1263 (1974). Congress also set the statute of limitations for offenses under the Act in Title 2, as well as the campaign contribution offenses in Title 18, at three years by adding the following language:

"Sec. 406. (a) No person shall be prosecuted . . . for any violation of title III of this Act or of section 608, 610, 611, 613, 614, 615, 616, or 617 of title 18, United States Code [the sections applicable to campaign contributions], unless the indictment is found or the ...

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