Congressmen Messer, Rokita hit with FEC complaints for illegal shadow campaign

INDIANAPOLIS – A campaign ethics watchdog is filing two complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Congressmen Messer and Rokita, asserting that both men have broken election law by running for the Senate before publicly declaring their candidacies.

The American Democracy Legal Fund (ADLF) has filed complaints against both men, Indy Politics reported yesterday. While candidates are allowed to “test the waters” for a potential run before making their candidacy official, anyone who has cleared certain benchmarks in a U.S. Senate campaign, including raising more than $5,000 for the race, is required to file a statement of candidacy with the FEC. Both complaints allege that Congressmen Messer and Rokita have failed to do so despite clearing these benchmarks, which would violate election law.

As evidence, the ADLF cites a press release Congressman Messer sent out with a statewide finance team listing “Individuals supporting Messer for United States Senate.” The ADLF also alleges that the FEC already sent Congressman Rokita a written complaint in March demanding that he either publicly state that he was not running or file a statement of candidacy within 35 days of the letter. Congressman Rokita has taken neither action by the deadline but has continued to tout his potential Senate run and fundraise for it.

Neither man has officially filed his candidacy yet, but they both have barnstormed the state far from their congressional districts seeking support for a potential run. They’ve also started slamming each other as though the Republican primary has begun in earnest. Congressman Rokita’s team has tried to exploit stories about Congressman Messer’s wife’s $20,000 monthly retainer for part-time legal work with the city of Fishers, while Congressman Messer’s campaign has called Congressman Rokita’s comments “unhinged.”

“For months, Congressmen Messer and Rokita have waged Senate campaigns in all but the strictest sense of the word, jockeying for position and fighting for funds while they extract every last advantage they can from pretending their candidacies haven’t yet started,” said Will Baskin-Gerwitz, Senior Media Strategist for the Indiana Democratic Party. “Both men must respond to these allegations and make the status of their candidacy clear, or the FEC should act and hold them accountable for misleading Hoosiers.”

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