Antone Melton-Meaux’s campaign to unseat progressive freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota has paid nearly $1.2 million -- 65 percent of his overall spending -- to three anonymous companies, a move that circumvents traditional campaign finance disclosure standards.
Melton-Meaux’s filing last week with the Federal Election Commission lists payments of almost $1.1 million to “WCPA” in June for media buys and direct mail, and lists another $223,000 owed to the firm. It’s not entirely clear what company they’re paying -- none of the records in OpenCorporates appear to be a match. A company with a similar name, “WPCA, LLC,” was registered in Delaware on May 29.
A Melton-Meaux spokesperson did not respond to multiple emails from TMI seeking information about the payments.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has threatened to punish vendors who work for candidates who run primary challenges to Democratic incumbents. Melton-Meaux’s financial maneuver keeps hidden the vendors who are working for his campaign against Omar, a first-term Democratic incumbent.
Last week, MinnPost reported that Melton-Meaux’s campaign has paid roughly $100,000 to two Delaware limited liability companies registered late last year. The campaign said the companies, North Superior Consulting LLC and Lake Point Consulting, were “communications and strategy consulting firms that work largely outside of politics, with very limited political experience.” They said the campaign has signed nondisclosure agreements with both companies.
“The law requires campaigns to report their spending so that the public can know how political campaign money is being spent,” said Brendan Fischer, a lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center. “When 65 percent of a campaign's spending is flowing through anonymous Delaware LLCs, the public is kept in the dark. Schemes like this hide which individuals or companies are working for the campaign, the nature of the work, and how much they are being paid.”
While Omar’s polling shows she’s popular in her district, Melton-Meaux raised $3.2 million between April and June and has been blanketing the airwaves with ads. Omar brought in less than $500,000 in the same time. The first Somali refugee elected to Congress, Omar has been a frequent target of Israel supporters for her criticisms of the country’s influence over U.S. policy. Pro-Israel political action committees have raised more than $400,000 for Melton-Meaux’s campaign.
A super PAC funded by frequent GOP donors last week disclosed spending $228,000 on mailers opposing Omar. The group — which is called Americans for Tomorrow’s Future — recently bankrolled a Democratic pro-Israel super PAC that has been weighing in on Democratic primary races.
“There are people who are invested in keeping that status quo, people who don’t want these structural changes to take place, and those are really the people who have the resources to oust someone like me,” Omar said on Sunday.
Melton-Meaux’s TV ad buys have been placed by Canal Partners Media, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission. Canal Partners Media isn’t listed in Melton-Meaux’s latest FEC report, suggesting that some of the WCPA spending has been subcontracted. Canal Partners Media has reportedly placed ad buys for the Biden campaign under the name “Media Buying & Analytics.”
Canal Partners Media didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“The FEC has generally said that if a campaign hires, for example, a consulting firm to produce its ads, and the consulting firm subcontracts with a videographer to film the ads, the campaign need only report the payments to the consulting firm, and not separately itemize the payments to the videographer,” Fischer said. “But if a vendor is just acting as a conduit to hide the ultimate recipients of the campaign's spending, then the campaign is violating the law.”
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