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Ex-candidate loses suit, but he's fine with fine

He must pay $7,000 for election law violations.

By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007

[Jack Rowland | Times (1998)]
Lawyer Chuck Kalogianis balked at the government's $300,000 fine.

NEW PORT RICHEY - Former congressional candidate Chuck Kalogianis is reveling in defeat.

The Federal Elections Commission was after Kalogianis even before the Democrat lost his 2002 bid to unseat Republican Mike Bilirakis from Florida's 9th Congressional District seat.

The FEC said Kalogianis took illegal campaign contributions from his own businesses and failed to disclose them. The former candidate admitted to the violations, but balked at the government's fine: $300,000.

Now, six years after the FEC first filed suit, a federal judge has ruled against Kalogianis.

The 44-year-old attorney violated federal election laws and should pay up, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday ruled Nov. 30.But he should only pay $7,000.

"The battle line was that they were trying to fine me an exorbitant amount of money over an innocent mistake," Kalogianis said.

If Kalogianis had loaned the money to his campaign himself, there would have been no problems. But he made the mistake of making six loans, totaling $54,528, to his campaign from two of his own businesses: his law firm Kalogianis & Associates and Liberty Title Agency, which has since been sold.

But was this "willful misconduct" as the FEC alleged? Did it deserve the maximum fine?

"Although lacking diligence and accuracy in their reporting," Merryday wrote, "the defendants' conduct evinces no bad faith."

The commission, however, also claimed victory. The judge rejected Kalogianis' defense that loans from corporations he solely owned should be treated like personal loans to his campaign.

Times Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

[Last modified December 6, 2007, 23:40:59]

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