- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A U.S. Senate candidate in Mississippi said Wednesday that he’s filing an Internal Revenue Service complaint against a group that complained to the Federal Election Commission about him.

Republican Chris McDaniel said he believes the Campaign Legal Center is violating its IRS status as a nonprofit group by engaging in political activity.

“I’d like to say that I’ve never seen a nonprofit take the brazen step of expressly engaging in political activities but CLC is well-known for using its status as a nonprofit as a cover for directly trying to influence the outcome of elections,” McDaniel said in a statement.

Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation for the center, responded that the center has a long history of filing complaints against candidates, political action committees and organizations.

“In strict compliance with our nonpartisan mission, we never take a position on the merits of candidates,” Noti said in a statement. “We care only that candidates follow the law.”

The center filed a complaint Monday to the FEC, saying McDaniel and a super PAC called Remember Mississippi have been improperly coordinating activities. The complaint says Remember Mississippi violated its certification as a super PAC by organizing and funding three campaign events that constituted “unreported and excessive in-kind contributions” to McDaniel.

McDaniel called the center’s complaint “completely bogus.”

McDaniel is running in a November special election to complete a term started by longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, 80, who is resigning Sunday because of health concerns

Gov. Phil Bryant has appointed Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, a fellow Republican, to temporarily succeed Cochran. She’s also running in the special election, as is Mike Espy, a Democratic former congressman who served as President Bill Clinton’s first secretary of agriculture. Other candidates could also emerge.

Candidates in Mississippi special elections run without party labels, though they generally tell voters their political affiliation. Republicans are trying to hold on to their narrow majority in the U.S. Senate in this year’s midterm election.

Remember Mississippi raised nearly $1.1 million last year, with $500,000 coming from Richard Uihlein of Illinois, a packaging company executive who has donated to anti-union causes, and $500,000 from billionaire investor Robert Mercer of New York.

The super PAC takes its name from the slogan McDaniel supporters adopted after McDaniel, a tea-party backed state lawmaker, lost a bitter 2014 Republican primary to Cochran, who was supported by the political establishment.

McDaniel originally said he would challenge Mississippi’s other Republican U.S. senator, Roger Wicker. After Cochran announced his planned departure, McDaniel said he would jump into the race to fill the rest of Cochran’s term, which ends in January 2021. McDaniel filed papers Wednesday to withdraw from the Wicker race, leaving Wicker with one challenger, political newcomer Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead, in the June 5 primary.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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