Dean Phillips campaign accused of illegal coordination with Super PAC, nonprofit asks FEC to investigate

The Dean Phillips Campaign is being accused of illegally coordinating with a supporting Super PAC, Pass the Torch USA Inc., according to a complaint sent to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) by the nonprofit watchdog group, Campaign for Accountability (CfA).

The complaint, released on Wednesday, states there’s evidence of coordinated communication between the campaign and the Super PAC, including a $450,000 funds transfer from the Super PAC to the campaign. The PAC, according to the complaint, falsely reported this as independent expenditures and the campaign did not disclose this as in-kind contributions.

Federal election law states that Super PACs can’t coordinate with election candidates.

CfA also said that Steve Schmidt, a nationally recognized political strategist who worked for multiple presidential campaigns, left the Dean Phillips campaign two weeks after its launch and created the Super PAC Pass the Torch. The complaint details ads released by the Super PAC that share the same message that Schmidt reportedly formed for the campaign: “It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of American Leaders.”

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith shared the following statement:

“Candidates and their committees cannot coordinate strategy with super PACs. When the architect of the Phillip’s campaign suddenly moves over to lead a super PAC supporting Phillip’s candidacy the moment the ink on the blueprint is dry, the coordination is clear.”

CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith

The Dean Phillips Campaign shared this statement in response:

“The complaint is baseless and does not allege a single specific example of coordination. All it takes is one look at our paid TV ads to see how different the strategies of these two entities are. Regardless, we can say without question that the campaign has at all times complied with the law and has not engaged in any coordination with Pass the Torch, Steve Schmidt, or any other party.”

Dean Phillips Campaign

The complaint makes a formal request for the FEC to investigate the Dean Phillips Campaign, Pass the Torch USA and Steve Schmidt to find if any of the involved parties violated federal election law.

The FEC said they cannot confirm or deny any complaints filed for confidentiality reasons but can disclose the details of such cases after they are resolved. Since every complaint is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, there was no available estimate for when a filing such as this one would be resolved.