Biden 2008 presidential campaign penalized $219,000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign has been ordered to pay a $219,000 penalty for improperly accepting a discounted private plane flight and taking individual campaign contributions above the legal limit, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) rubs his eyes during his vice presidential debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri October 2, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Biden, a senator at the time, was one of several Democratic candidates for president in 2008, but dropped out early in the campaign before being selected as Democratic nominee Barack Obama’s running mate.

The FEC took the action against the Biden for President organization after an audit of the campaign’s activities, according to a statement dated Friday on the agency’s website. Federal law requires the commission to audit every political committee created by a presidential candidate who gets public funding for the party primary races.

A Biden spokeswoman said the vice president will pay the penalty to the U.S. Treasury to resolve the matter.

Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander told Politico, a news organization that covers U.S. politics, that the penalty was “relatively small” and that “some repayment is commonplace after presidential campaign audits.”

The audit showed that Biden’s campaign accepted an improper corporate contribution -- round-trip flights for three people between New Hampshire and Iowa on a private airplane in June 2007. The audit did not identify the three people.

Biden’s campaign understated the value of the flights, reimbursing a company called GEH Air Transportation at too low a rate, according to the FEC audit.

The FEC said Biden’s campaign should have paid $34,800 for the flights. It said that by failing to pay a charter flight rate as required, the campaign received from GEH an improper contribution of $26,889 -- the $34,800 owed for the flights, minus the $7,911 actually paid.

Politico reported that government records show GEH is owned by a New York hedge fund called the Clinton Group that has been implicated, but not charged, by New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in a pension fund kickback investigation.

The FEC audit also faulted Biden’s campaign regarding $106,000 in contributions from individuals that exceeded the $2,300 maximum per election set out by U.S. election law.

The FEC's findings are posted on the Internethere

Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Stacey Joyce