Updated: August 05, 2020 08:13 PM
Created: August 04, 2020 08:47 PM
The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) announced on Tuesday that they will file a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint against the Antone Melton-Meaux campaign.
According to a release from the DFL, they allege that the Melton-Meaux campaign and associated firms are intentionally obscuring individuals providing services to the campaign which is in contravention to the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.
"It's very unusual for the state party to intervene in a primary in this way, and so what that indicates and is surprising to many is that we have a very competitive contest," said Carleton College Political Analyst Steven Schier.
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Melton-Meaux is challenging incumbent Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in the Democratic primary election for Minnesota's fifth congressional district.
"The campaign of Ilhan Omar's primary opponent has gone against the values of the DFL Party by apparently working with vendors to set up mysterious shell companies to hide millions of dollars in spending," said DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin in a statement. "Not only did those shell companies appear to have failed to file taxes, but the campaign illegally failed to disclose where that money is going. It appears they are illegally paying campaign vendors off-the-books and admitting to it."
The complaint shows a total of over $1.6 million was paid to "mysterious shell companies" for what was reported as advertising and consulting services.
"The party didn't do anything to benefit me, the party did what they think is right," Rep. Ilhan Omar said.
In response to the allegations, Melton-Meaux said:
This is a frivolous and baseless claim. And this is a continuation of more divisiveness and distraction from my opponent, Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is clearly desperate.
Scott Thomas, a former FEC commissioner and four-time chair of the FEC, who reviewed numerous complaints during his 30-year career with the FEC said, "The complaint by the DFL would be rejected by the FEC because it lacks merit. LLCs are recognized legal entities under the law that provide liability protections, protect separate personal assets of those who form them, and provide bank privacy and tax benefits as well. Further, the Minnesota DFL will find LLCs listed as payees on many campaign finance reports of many candidates and party committees, including those of Rep. Omar. The LLCs receiving payments were legitimate entities, and the described purposes for the payments were accurate. If the reporting here involved also helps insulate against the "blacklisting" practices of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, that is simply an additional legitimate reason for using the LLC business format and established reporting practices." Thomas serves as FEC counsel for the campaign.
Organizations and consulting firms are trying to preserve their professional careers and their livelihoods in spite of the onerous decision by the DCCC, frankly, that is chilling and dangerous to the democratic process.
It is unlikely that the FEC would be able to address the complaint before the primary next Tuesday as they have only three seated commissioners out of six possible following resignations. The FEC would need four votes to have enforcement power.
The full complaint can be read here.
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