Watchdog Groups File FEC Complaints Against National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Senate Majority PAC
Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the Commission to conclude that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has violated federal law by including the names of Democratic candidates in the titles of at least 19 NRCC special project websites without the website titles clearly and unambiguously showing opposition to the named candidates as required by federal law.
Late last year, the NRCC began setting up websites with URLs and headlines that imply support for named Democratic candidates for Congress and with prominent “donate” buttons. In less prominent text, the websites indicate opposition to the named candidates and note that the websites are paid for by the NRCC. Any money donated via the websites goes to the NRCC. The Campaign Legal Center has counted 19 such websites so far, with URLs such as AnnieKusterForCongress.com and JohnLewis4Congress.com. Annie Kuster, John Lewis and the other candidates named in the NRCC websites listed in our complaint are Democratic candidates for Congress this year. The headlines at the top of these pages read “Annie Kuster For Congress,” “John Lewis For Congress,” etc.
“Federal law is clear: the NRCC may not use the name of a candidate in the title of a website paid for by the NRCC, unless the title of the website clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The titles of these NRCC websites do not show opposition to the named candidates, so these websites violate federal law meant to protect donors and others from being tricked and mislead by noncandidate committees.”
Federal law prohibits any noncandidate political committee, such as the NRCC, from “includ[ing] the name of any candidate in its name.” FEC regulations make clear that this restriction on the use of candidate names applies not only to the official name of the committee, but also to “any name under which a committee conducts activities,” including websites, unless the title of the website “clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.” The NRCC websites listed in the complaint fail to clearly show opposition to the named candidates.
To read the complaint filed today by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.FEC Complaint Filed Against Senate Majority PAC Seeking Investigation of Apparent Illegal Contribution to Braley Campaign
Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the Commission to investigate an apparent illegal in-kind contribution made by Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC that supports Democratic candidates, to Braley for Iowa, the campaign committee of U.S. Senate candidate Bruce L. Braley. According to multiple press reports, Senate Majority PAC, which is prohibited from contributing to candidates, is paying to air television advertisements that include “b-roll” video footage originally produced by Rep. Braley and/or his campaign. Such republication of Braley campaign materials constitutes a violation of the law by Senate Majority PAC.
Federal law treats any money spent to republish candidate campaign materials as an in-kind contribution by the group paying for the republication to the candidate who prepared the materials. According to media reports, in late January, Senate Majority PAC spent more than $240,000 to air an ad entitled “Oil Billionaires” to boost Braley’s candidacy. The “Oil Billionaires” ad contains b-roll video footage that has been posted by the Braley campaign to its YouTube page and that was also used in a YouTube-available video produced by Rep. Braley’s re-election campaign in 2012. The Braley campaign b-roll footage is on screen for approximately 16 seconds of Senate Majority PAC’s 30-second “Oil Billionaires” ad.
“Senate Majority PAC’s expenditures exceeding $240,000 to air an ad containing Braley campaign b-roll footage are in-kind contributions from the super PAC to the Braley campaign under FEC regulations, but Super PACs are prohibited from contributing to candidates,” explained Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan. “The airing of the ‘Oil Billionaires’ ad constitutes a clear violation of federal law by Senate Majority PAC.”
Although the FEC regulation contains an exception for a “brief quote” of campaign materials used to “demonstrate a candidate’s position as part of the spender’s expression of its own views, Senate Majority PAC’s “Oil Billionaires” ad does not qualify for the exemption for two reasons. First, 16 seconds of material in a 30-second ad is not a “brief quote.” Second, the b-roll footage used in “Oil Billionaires” does not demonstrate Rep. Braley’s position on any issue.
To read the complaint filed today by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.