Grayson Accused of Campaign Finance Violation for Solicitation

Posted March 24, 2010 at 4:07pm

After spending a year talking tersely to Republicans, populist firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) may soon be getting a scolding of his own — from election regulators for botching disclosure language on a recent fundraising appeal.

Grayson is accused in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission of breaking federal campaign finance laws earlier this week when his campaign solicited prohibited corporate campaign contributions on behalf of a Florida political candidate, Scott Maddox.

In an e-mail sent by his re-election committee, Grayson asked his donors to attend a Thursday fundraiser and give the maximum “$500 per person or corporate” contribution to Maddox, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to be the Sunshine State’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. If he wins the August primary, Maddox is expected to face retiring Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) in November’s general election.

The problem with Grayson’s plea? Campaign finance law bars federal officeholders and candidates from soliciting contributions for state candidates — who often raise money under more liberal restrictions — from corporations, foreign nationals and other prohibited sources. A Florida real estate company filed a complaint with the FEC about the fundraising appeal — and a Republican operative accused Grayson of hypocrisy.

“No Member of Congress has railed as vociferously as Alan Grayson has against the supposedly pernicious influence corporations have on our political process, but now he’s getting busted for illegally soliciting corporate donations himself,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Andy Sere said in a statement. “Like too many loud-mouthed Washington politicians, Grayson’s motto appears to be, ‘Do as I scream, not as I do.'”

Grayson’s campaign denied any wrongdoing in sending out the appeal.
“We checked with our federal election attorney, and he told us that the complaint is entirely without merit,” spokesman Todd Jurkowski said in a statement.

But the matter may not be that black and white, campaign finance lawyers say. Legal experts say Grayson’s campaign undoubtedly muffed the wording on the solicitation, but they differ as to whether FEC commissioners would be heavy-handed in punishing the central Florida Democrat.

“He made a rookie mistake. You are allowed to be listed on a state candidate fundraising invitation. It needs to have a disclaimer, and you cannot request money that doesn’t comply with federal law,” one lawyer said. “This law’s been in effect for how many years? And some of these guys keep making this mistake.”

Another campaign finance lawyer disagreed, calling the complaint only the latest in a series of “bullshit disclaimer complaints” that are becoming “a standard way of harassing political opponents.”

“The FEC routinely dismisses complaints that deal only with missing/defective disclaimers,” the lawyer said.