Nonpartisan FEC Attorneys Found James Campaign Received Illegal In-Kind Contribution from Super PAC, “Wanted to Investigate Further” Into Illegal Coordination Allegation

Nonpartisan FEC General Counsel: Outsider PAC “Improperly Republished Material From the James Campaign”

The Detroit News reports that the Federal Election Commission’s nonpartisan Office of General Counsel found John James’ failed 2018 Senate campaign received an illegal in-kind contribution from Outsider PAC, a Super PAC supporting James’ candidacy, and “wanted to investigate further” into allegations of illegal coordination between the two organizations. The counsel recommended using “compulsory” measures – which may include subpoenas, affidavits, and depositions – to continue the investigation. Grand River Strategies, a GOP consulting firm working for both the James campaign and Outsider PAC, failed to provide proof that they weren’t facilitating illegal coordination between the campaign and the Super PAC. 

Despite the nonpartisan counsel’s recommendation to investigate further, the Republicans on the commission blocked approval for any further action. 

The Detroit News: Cash, claims of illegality already flying in Michigan’s Senate race

Key Points: 

  • Yet James, a Farmington Hills businessman who also ran for the U.S. Senate in 2018, faced similar allegations that FEC attorneys wanted to investigate further.
  • The Federal Election Commission’s nonpartisan Office of General Counsel said there was reason to believe Outsider PAC had improperly republished material from the James campaign, according to a March letter.
  • The office proposed using a “compulsory process,” which can include subpoenas, to get more information.
  • Grand River Strategies, a Lansing-based consulting firm that was working with both the James campaign and Outsider PAC, said different employees were working with each client and it had a “firewall” in place to avoid coordination. But the firm didn’t provide statements to show employees “complied with the firewall policy,” according to the general counsel’s letter.
  • The James campaign didn’t respond to a request for additional information.
  • The FEC deadlocked 2-2 with Democrats agreeing there was a violation and wanting to gather more information and Republicans rejecting it.