HOLLYWOOD, FLA. -- The Seminole Tribe of Florida violated federal election laws by reimbursing chairman James Billie and other tribal members for almost $120,000 they contributed to presidential and congressional election campaigns, according to documents released Friday.
Billie and 34 other tribe members were paid back every dollar they gave from a secret fund of profits from tax-free cigarette sales, a conciliation agreement between the tribe and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) showed.
In a negotiated settlement, the tribe agreed to pay a $32,000 civil fine for the contributions made from 1979 to 1982, said FEC spokesman Scott Moxley.
Billie's contributions of $29,800 to federal candidates and election committees were reimbursed by the tribe, Moxley said.
Federal election law prohibits anyone or any type of organization from contributing money under another person's name or allowing the person's name to be used by someone else.
The law also prohibits an individual from contributing more than $1,000 to each candidate.
The Seminole tribe and Billie were found to have violated both laws.
Billie and the tribe's attorney, Jim Shore, did not return repeated telephone calls for comment.
In 1986, the tribe also contributed $14,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but it failed to register as a legal political committee or file financial reports with the FEC.
On Nov. 4, 1988, the conciliation agreement was signed by Billie and FEC General Counsel Lawrence M. Noble.
The commission did not make it public until Friday because it was trying, unsuccessfully, to locate Stephen Whilden, an attorney the FEC said helped set up the