The Federal Election Commission (search) on Wednesday leveled one of its largest fines ever against a New Jersey developer for contributing money to political candidates in the names of his partnerships when he did not have the authority to do so.

Charles Kushner (search), a major Democratic Party donor, agreed to pay FEC $508,900, said FEC spokesman George Smaragdis (search). The FEC investigation focused on $540,900 contributed to various political candidates and committees between Dec. 5, 1997 and Aug. 17, 2000. Each check had the same Florham Park, N.J., address as the Kushner Companies, and all were signed by Kushner.

The investigation found that Kushner, who controls 40 partnership entities, violated the FEC's "partnership contribution regulations" by failing to obtain the agreement of the partners to whom the contributions were attributed.

The FEC began its investigation of Kushner Companies during a routine audit of the Bill Bradley for President Committee after the 2000 elections. The Bradley committee has admitted violating campaign contribution laws by accepting $34,000 in contributions from Kushner and has paid a $16,445 civil penalty.

Kushner is the target of several lawsuits alleging improper use of business funds for personal and political purposes.

Last year, New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey appointed Kushner — one of McGreevey's biggest donors — to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's board of directors, but he resigned after the investigations into his activities became public.