- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2019

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint against Sen. Gary Peters with the Federal Election Commission this week, alleging that he violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.

FACT, a conservative watchdog, alleges in the complaint that the Michigan Democrat, his reelection campaign, and VoteVets, a progressive veterans advocacy group, “illegally coordinate[d].”

“Through postings on a designated webpage, Peters instructs organizations with which he is not permitted to coordinate to run advertisements beneficial to his campaign,” wrote Kendra Arnold, FACT executive director, in the FEC complaint. “This is not general candidate or campaign information and not in the usual format as that provided to the general public. Rather, Peters provides detailed content for ads and markets in which to run the ads based upon the campaign’s internal data and advertising needs, and provides them in a format designated to directly communicate with outside organizations.”

As additional evidence of FACT’s allegations, Ms. Arnold’s complaint points to The Washington Times’ previous reporting that found identical photos, videos and a text script on a Peters campaign webpage and in television ads from the “dark money” group, VoteVets.

The information contained on the Peters campaign webpage appeared identical to the content appearing in pro-Peters TV ads run by VoteVets last month as part of a $750,000 ad buy.

Mr. Peters’ campaign previously told The Times that “outside special interests” were “misleading Michiganders with false attacks” on the senator and that facts about his record were publicly available online.

Campaign finance and election law experts are divided on the legality of the actions of Mr. Peters, his campaign and VoteVets. Jessica Furst Johnson, a campaign finance and election law attorney with experience working for Republicans, reviewed the material and previously told The Times that Mr. Peters had clearly gone “over the line.”

The Campaign Legal Center’s Erin Chlopak, however, told The Times she thought Mr. Peters was benefiting from a “loophole that candidates across the political spectrum exploit, legally.”

FACT’s December complaint against Mr. Peters warns that similarly frowned-upon behavior is likely to persist unless the FEC takes action.

“This conduct has resulted in the airing of at least two advertisements that likely constitutes an illegal $1,450,000 in-kind contribution to Peters’ campaign,” Ms. Arnold wrote in the complaint. “If the Commission does not act and punish such a clear violation, candidates will continue coordinating with outside groups in violation of federal law.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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