Election complaints as last-minute campaign strategy

Over the past week there have been at least three high-profile complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission against the two major party candidates for U.S. Senate.

Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo kicked things off when she alleged Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon was conspiring with husband Vince to use the family’s company – Stamford-based World Wrestling Entertainment – to promote Linda’s candidacy.

A few days later Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy filed a complaint with the FEC accusing Blumenthal of illegally partnering with Planned Parenthood to mount a smear campaign against Linda McMahon.

And today Healy filed a second complaint with the FEC over Blumenthal’s fundraising.

These complaints and the others that have been or will be filed in the Senate and other races amount to last minute campaign tactics.

Why? Because there is no chance that they’ll be settled by the FEC before Election Day on Tuesday. So the complainant and their candidate get a chance to raise doubts about the opposing side in the media knowing a final determination is weeks, months, possibly even years away. But all they need in these final days is to cause voters to wonder whether McMahon, Blumenthal or other candidates are playing dirty. Nobody expects to prove it in time for the polls to open.

Don’t believe me? Then take the word of David Mason, an FEC Commissioner from 1998 until 2008 and a former chairman.

Mason declined to speculate on the motives, but he told me by phone this afternoon that “the majority of complaints that are filed in any two year election cycle are filed in the last month or two before the election.”

“And because of the statutory procedure for handling complaints, the fastest disposition of a complaint that, as a practical matter, the commission could get to is two months,” Mason said.

Consider that before an investigation is even launched, there is a 20-day window between when the commission receives a complaint and the deadline for the accused party to file an initial response, according to the FEC website.

“Anything filed after Labor Day ain’t getting settled before the election,” Mason said. “Anybody who’s filing a complaint now knows it can’t be settled before Election Day. Or they’re an idiot.”

Let’s assume neither DiNardo nor Healy nor Blumenthal nor McMahon are idiots.

Categories: General
Brian Lockhart

7 Responses

  1. Paul G. Littlefield says:

    Healy, as head of the Republican Party in Connecticut, is obligated to be the point man on electoral issues. He is right to raise questions, as is the media, when the math doesn’t add up.

    The Blumenthal campaign is about to implode. Foley and Malloy are tied. He who votes for Foley votes for McMahon, so McMahon and Blumenthal are tied.

    George Will today put in his two cents worth, saying 57 Senators are lawyers. He concludes that “There already is a surfeit of Blumenthals in Washington, and a scarcity of McMahons.”

    Vote Linda, send a real stand-up voice to Washington and bring back jobs to Connecticut and America

  2. pajo says:

    McMahon’s latest TV ads are a desperate, last-minute attempt trying to depict her as a caring, sensitive, motherly person…PHONY! PHONY! PHONY!


  3. T says:

    Planned Parenthood endorsed Blumie? Not surprised.

    I still find it awfully partisan of them to “want to hit LM hard” when a) Linda’s pro choice and b) Linda never did anything to Planned Parenthood to warrant their ire.

    It’s inappropriate for Planned Parenthood to use the Blumenthal campaign to vocalize any personal distaste for WWE content over the years as a mechanism of support for Blumenthal.

    That crosses the line from endorsing Blumenthal to actively attacking McMahon in the name of Blumenthal’s campaign.

  4. E says:

    Are the complaints last minute tactics? or are the possible illegal actions which prompted the complaints the last minute actions?

    Richard Blumenthal “loaning” money to his campaign which exceeds his net assets doesn’t add up — literally.

    And the reputedly non-partisan and non-profit organization Planned Parenthood partnering up with Mr. Blumenthal’s campaign to smear his opponent is cause for alarm.

  5. matt says:

    But I think you’re being awfully generous to the party chairs.

  6. matt says:

    “Let’s assume neither DiNardo nor Healy nor Blumenthal nor McMahon are idiots.”

    I’ll assume Blumenthal is not an idiot, as he doesn’t appear to have filed any of these hail-mary complaints.