National Republican Senatorial Committee accused of misusing funds in watchdog FEC complaint: report
The campaign finance watchdog group Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing the National Republican Senatorial Committee of illegally misappropriating funds meant for legal expenditures to purchase political ads.
The move comes as the GOP and Democratic Party duke it out for control of the United States Senate in the November midterms. Democrats, who have a one-seat majority because of Vice President Kamala Harris' authority to break ties, are favored to retain control of the upper congressional chamber.
"The Senate Republican campaign arm paid for $1 million in political advertising using money that, under campaign finance law, is meant to be for legal expenses. The spending, which appears to have been used for ads in the Senate races in Colorado and Washington State, is part of more than $3 million in media-related spending through the Republican committee’s legal fund, according to federal filings in 2021 and 2022," according to Wednesday's New York Times, in which correspondents Shane Goldmacher and Reid J. Epstein mentioned that End Citizens United joined CLC in its filing.
Goldmacher reported earlier this month that the NRSC – headed by Senator Rick Scott of Florida – "had squeezed donors with hyperaggressive new tactics. And all the money coming in obscured just how much the committee was spending advertising for donors. Then inflation sapped online giving for Republicans nationwide. And the money that had rolled in came at an ethical price."
The authors explained that "federal law stipulates that money raised for such an account, to which individual donors are allowed to give three times as much as they can to the main committee fund-raising vehicle, can be used only for “'the preparation for and the conduct of election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings.'”
Goldmacher and Epstein additionally revealed that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee – led by Senator Gary Peters of Michigan – filed its own inquiry with the FEC with hopes that the agency will rule "on the legality of the practice" of "whether money raised specifically into such a legal fund can be used to pay for television advertising" before voters head to the polls in 47 days.
“It is beyond the imagination of the DSCC to understand why the NRSC believes that candidate attack ads are expenses incurred in connection with a legal proceeding,” DSCC attorney Jacquelyn K. Lopez wrote to the FEC, per the Times.
The paper further noted that "by seeking an advisory opinion instead of filing a complaint, the Democrats also leave open the possibility that in the future, they could engage in the same practice of using legal money to subsidize television advertising."
Meanwhile, the NRSC's spokesperson Chris Hartline, whom the Times said was unavailable for comment, has maintained that the NRSC has done nothing wrong.
The NRSC, Hartline told Goldmacher on September 3rd, will “always find the most effective, efficient and creative way to get our message out and stretch every dollar, in accordance with the law."
Scott's staff, Goldmacher wrote in his exposé, also "vigorously denied financial struggles, said some of the canceled television ads had been rebooked, and argued the digital spending would prove wise in time."
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