The campaign of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is being accused of illegally coordinating with the super PAC VoteVets to run television advertisements in Nevada, Axios reports. The accusations are being leveled by the nonpartisan watchdog group Campaign Legal Center (CLC), which filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FCC) on Tuesday about the alleged coordination.
The reported strategy began with a February 5 tweet from Buttigieg campaign senior strategist Michael Halle.
“Pete’s military experience and closing message from Iowa work everywhere especially in Nevada where it’s critical they see this on the air through the caucus,” he wrote.
Per The Washington Post, Buttigieg campaign spokesman Chris Meagher released a statement the same day addressing VoteVets.
“Pete is the only candidate who isn’t a millionaire or billionaire. And if the largest progressive veterans group wants to help spread the word about his service we welcome it,” the statement read.
Just one week later, VoteVets spent $639,652 to create and run television ads in the Silver State. The CLC claims these ads contained messaging that echoed the campaign’s messaging.
According to the CLC, the Buttigieg campaign may have accepted over $639,000 in “illegal and excessive in-kind contributions” from VoteVets, which would be a violation of FEC rules that prohibit campaigns from consulting with independent groups or suggesting how they spend their money.
“The tweet from Buttigieg’s agent is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than a request or suggestion for VoteVets — the only super PAC or other outside group supporting Buttigieg’s candidacy at that time,” the complaint reads.
Warren's campaign manager accuses Buttigieg senior strategist of tweeting signal to a super Pac pic.twitter.com/XSFlcQVD4k
— Greg Krieg (@GregJKrieg) February 5, 2020
Buttigieg’s campaign has denied improperly working with VoteVets. Regardless, it’s not uncommon for candidates to find ways to work with super PACs via loopholes that prevent them from breaking laws against coordination.
In this case, Brendan Fischer, the director of the federal reform program at the CLC, believes that Buttigieg’s campaign “crossed the legal line” with the alleged coordination, per The New York Times.
Fischer pointed to “the obviousness of the tweet request, which included “significant details” about the timing, content, duration, and location of the ads the Buttigieg campaign desired. This specificity is what Fischer believes separates the current instance from other instances of coordination observed in the past.
The Buttigieg campaign’s financing has come under scrutiny before. As The Inquisitr previously reported, his campaign has reportedly taken donations from Republican billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik, who allegedly has links to Russian oligarchy. His campaign has also reportedly received donations from over 40 billionaires, which has drawn criticism from his rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.