Sometimes, I get asked how hard it is to be a third party guy, especially around election time. The answer, at least over the six campaigns I have waged in the last thirteen years, has not changed all that much since May 2004, when I launched my first bid for public office- pretty damn hard.
Trying to convince people to not only quit choosing the lesser of two evils, but to quit considering there are just those two evils to pick from is hard enough, then there is convincing the media to pay you any kind of attention (and then hoping it is serious attention, at the least), and for a lot of Libertarian/third party/independent candidates, it is the paperwork climb that can leave them on the sidelines come election day. Gathering signatures, weird filing deadlines, the flexibility of county clerks, there are several variables that can come into play.
So how aggravating is it when the powers that be in the political duopoly skirt the rules or flat do whatever they want? Pretty damn aggravating, and not just in that it should be just as aggravating to the voters as it is to the candidates.
It was with all the above in mind as I read about the complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against U.S. Congressmen Luke Messer (R-6th) and Todd Rokita (R-4th) by the American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF), contending the congressmen are violating federal election law by illegally campaigning for the U.S. Senate.
The complaints center around the race next year to replace U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, a race that both Messer and Rokita have focused a good amount of attention on, despite neither man officially declaring for the race as of yet. The ADLF, in their complaint, contend that Messer and Rokita have each raised far more than the $5,000 allowable before requiring a registration of a campaign, in addition to publicly discussing their respective campaigns.
Messer, specifically, issued a press release that included a list of “Individuals Supporting Messer for United States Senate,” and his deputy campaign manager said “we look forward to welcoming additional members to the team who are committed to supporting Luke Messer for the United States Senate.”
The complaint also alleges that the FEC sent Rokita a letter in March, giving him thirty-five days to either declare he is not a candidate or file a Statement of Candidacy. Neither has happened, but Rokita has continued to not only talk about his candidacy, but fundraise, as well.
The Messer campaign, through a spokesman, predictably said they have no idea what the hell the ADLF is talking about, and have received no notices from the FEC. The response from the Rokita camp is slightly more distressing. Campaign manager Tim Edison stated that “these clowns have been shopping this nonsense for weeks. Todd has made no final decision on running for Senate. He has consistently said he is considering it but is not currently a candidate. People still have freedom of speech in this country and criticizing Donnelly’s record of rubber stamping things like Obama’s failed stimulus, ObamaCare, the Iran deal, taxpayer funded abortion and Obama’s gun grabs don’t make someone a Senate candidate.”
The idea that the Messer campaign doesn’t know what is going on is laughable, to say the least. When you are publicly naming supporters, and thanking people in advance for supporting you, specifically for an office you haven’t declared for yet, then really the only thing left is declaring for the damn office.
As for Rokita, this is shameful and embarrassing behavior from a man that was the Secretary of State, the chief election officer, of Indiana for eight years. I’m not saying there aren’t differences between the election laws of Indiana and the federal government, but if anyone should know the rules, it should damn well be the guy that was in charge of some of those election rules.
If this is “nonsense,” as Tim Edison considers it, then let’s see this letter the FEC sent you. Todd Rokita has freedom of speech, certainly, but apparently that speech has treaded so close to the line of candidacy the FEC wants definitive action from Rokita to define it as free speech versus campaign stumping. Last time I checked, the FEC was split right down the middle, in terms of (mainstream) ideology, so this can’t even be pawned off as a partisan squabble or attempt for payback.
Bottom line, gentlemen. Put up or shut up. You are in, or you are out. There is no halfway point, and it is organizations like the Federal Election Commission that make sure the line isn’t getting scuffed by the tap dancing by men like Luke Messer and Todd Rokita.
To view the complaints:
Complaint against Messer
Complaint against Rokita
Information for this commentary came from Election Complaint filed against Messer, Rokita, by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, on IndyPolitics.org
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