Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) is locked in a tough battle for re-election in 2020, and his bid to retain his seat may have just grown more difficult: the Democrat was hit by a complaint filed against him with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) accusing him of illicit campaign activities, The Washington Times reported.
Peters stands accused, for the second time in his political career, of illegally coordinating his campaign with outside “dark money” progressive groups.
FEC complaint filed
The FEC complaint was filed by a right-leaning watchdog group known as the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), which alleged that Peters was secretly coordinating his re-election efforts with a progressive left advocacy group known as Majority Forward.
Previously, FACT had filed an FEC complaint which asserted that Peters was similarly coordinating in illicit fashion with a left-leaning veterans group known as VoteVets.
Both of those advocacy groups fall into the category of “dark money” political organizations in that they are not required to disclose information about their donors, and thus are subject to certain restrictions on political activities under federal election laws.
The executive director of FACT, Kendra Arnold, alleged in the FEC complaint against Peters that the senator had used a “designated webpage” to post instructions to political advocacy groups with which he was legally prohibited from working directly, instructions those groups used to run ads to Peters’ benefit.
“Peters provides detailed content for advertisements and markets in which to run the advertisements based upon the campaign’s internal data and advertising needs, and provides it in a format designed to directly communicate with outside organizations,” Arnold wrote, according to the Times.
“In this case, Majority Forward then republished campaign materials in the form of advertisements. This type of behavior is contrary to federal law that prohibits candidates from coordinating with outside groups and is a prohibited campaign contribution,” she added.
Also included in the complaint is the allegation that, due to Majority Forward having acted on the information illicitly provided by Peters, the advocacy group essentially made an illegal contribution to the campaign estimated to be worth $20,000 to $25,000 by virtue of “distributing, republishing and financing the dissemination of campaign material.”
Tough GOP challenger
Neither Peters’ campaign nor Majority Forward responded to requests for comment from the Times. However, Peters said in response to the initial allegations against him that they were “false attacks” originating from “outside special interests” for the purpose of “misleading Michiganders” and smearing his name and record.
Sen. Peters is currently facing a strong challenge posed by a leading Republican candidate, Army veteran and business owner John James. The RealClearPolitics average of polls for that matchup shows Peters with a lead of roughly eight points over James, though the race is probably closer than that in actuality.
If it turns out that Peters really is illegally coordinating campaign efforts with “dark money” advocacy groups, then his fight for re-election may be far rougher than he expected.