Mo. Democratic Party Files FEC and Ethics Complaints Against Akin

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ST. LOUIS - The Missouri Democratic Party filed both an FEC and an Ethics complaint against Congressman (R-MO) and Senate candidate Todd Akin Wednesday, shortly after Akin received a joint endorsement from former GOP candidate Rick Santorum and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).   

Both complaints allege Akin engaged in "illegal coordination efforts with a SuperPAC called Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), headed by DeMint, by "soliciting the support of the SCF in exchange for supporting a ban on earmarks."  The complaints also claim Akin "has long championed earmarks," but the SCF endorses only candidates who support a ban on earmarks.

Akin campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler countered the complaints, telling KOMU 8, "Todd's position on earmarks has been clear and consistent, and it doesn't represent a change of position.  The fact is, Claire McCaskill's campaign is using this as a tactic to divert Missouri voters' attention away from her liberal voting record."

But, Mo. Democratic Party Chair Mike Sanders told KOMU 8, "Up until today, there was no denial that [Akin and the SCF] had conversations. That, in and of itself, is extremely troubling.  [In the complaints,] we cited federal bribery statutes and gift statues that preclude members of Congress or Senate from doing, performing an official act...or taking a position...based upon anything they've received. The clear intent of federal law is to preclude exactly this type of stuff from happening.  Someone gets campaign cash, and they vote in a particular way."  

University of Missouri Political Science Professor Marvin Overby explained that even if the complaint allegations are true, the premise of "coordination" isn't clearly defined.

Overby said these complaints "might give the FEC a chance to determine or to provide better guidance as to exactly what sort of collaboration or coordination can occur between campaigns and these SuperPACs.  A SuperPAC can give money in support of a candidate or a cause, but they can't coordinate with that candidate.  So the question is going to be whether there was a 'quid pro quo exchange' here in which there was a collaboration or coordination that would violate the spirit of the FEC regulations on this." 

The complaint filed with the FEC, Overby explained, will be reviewed by FEC investigators who could come down with rulings or levy fines against the campaign.  The House of Representatives Standards of Official Conduct Committee, the only committee in the House that has equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, will investigate the complaint filed with the House Ethics committee.  Neither committee is likely to make rulings on the complaints before Election Day.

Despite the controversy that stemmed from Akin's "legitimate rape" comment last month, his campaign said the latest attacks on Akin will not hinder the campaign's momentum.  "I've worked in campaigns many, many times, and when people are desperate, and when people see they're losing...they throw out baseless charges.  These are really baseless and laughable charges and really sad," Tyler said.

He added, "The Senatorial Committee is now reconsidering its position of supporting Todd, so all the Republicans are coming back to Todd because they know [he] can win this race, beat Claire McCaskill and deliver a Republican majority in the Senate in Washington."

Overby said he isn't so certain.  "My guess is that the Akin campaign is going to try to pivot on this and try to indicate that McCaskill also has problems with earmarks or whatever, but right now, he's in a difficult position, and it just got worse today."