This post is written by TMI editor/reporter Andrew Perez.
The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party announced on Tuesday that it’s planning to file a federal election complaint against Antone Melton-Meaux and the team of anonymous vendors assisting his bid against progressive freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, citing reporting by TMI.
As TMI reported last week, the Melton-Meaux campaign has routed most of its spending through three anonymous companies, at least two of which were incorporated in Delaware shortly before the payments started. The campaign’s payments to the firms accounted for 78 percent of its overall spending as of July 22, according to a TMI review.
The DFL complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleges that the Melton-Meaux campaign’s maneuver is being used to evade longstanding laws requiring disclosure of how campaign money is being spent. The party accuses Melton-Meaux, his campaign and the companies of violating campaign finance laws by “conspiring to intentionally obscure the individuals providing services to Antone for Congress.”
The party cites an FAQ letter the Melton-Meaux campaign sent to supporters on Sunday, in which the campaign said it is working “with several vendors and registered LLCs for a variety of services who had to protect themselves” from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), because the committee has threatened to blacklist consultants who work for candidates running in primaries against Democratic incumbents. Melton-Meaux told the Washington Post the same thing, and said the campaign had signed nondisclosure agreements with the companies.
On Wednesday, the candidate doubled down in a news conference, calling the complaint “frivolous” and a “desperate attempt by the DFL to resurrect Congresswoman Omar’s campaign.”
“This is really the result of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and an edict they put out in the fall of last year that they would blacklist any vendor that worked for someone like me, someone that’s running against an incumbent,” Melton-Meaux said. “They’re basically going to put these folks out of business. And so now these individuals and these organizations have to protect themselves, and they’ve done it in a legal way. I think the DCCC should be ashamed of themselves, because they’re being undemocratic. I have a constitutional right to run for this office.”
Further, he noted that “because the FEC is not even in quorum right now, this case goes nowhere.” This is true to a point -- thanks to a Republican commissioner’s recent resignation, only three of six FEC seats are filled right now, and the commission won’t be able to vote on enforcement actions.
However, the agency has fined candidates in the past for using subcontractor agreements to hide payments. In 2017, former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s GOP presidential campaign and her leadership PAC were fined after the PAC funneled money through a consulting firm to conceal payments to an Iowa state senator who endorsed her.
Melton-Meaux’s campaign has reported paying nearly $2.6 million since June to a company they’ve called “WCPA” for media production, TV and digital ad buys and direct mail services. It’s not clear where the firm is registered, though a company with a similar name -- “WPCA, LLC” -- was formed in Delaware on May 29.
Melton-Meaux’s campaign has also paid $120,000 to two Delaware limited liability companies registered in late 2019, named Lake Point Consulting and North Superior Consulting LLC. The campaign told MinnPost last month that the firms are “communications and strategy consulting firms that work largely outside of politics, with very limited political experience,” and said they had signed nondisclosure agreements with both companies.
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