Pro-Collins PAC targeted with campaign finance complaint

A Washington, D.C., nonprofit focused on reducing the influence of money in politics has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over a $150,000 donation to a pro-Susan Collins political action committee.

The complaint, first reported Monday by The Daily Beast, alleges that a Hawaii company – the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC – made the donation on Dec. 31 to 1820 PAC, which was created to aid Collins’ re-election bid. The complainant, the Campaign Legal Center, claims that the company was established to shield the original source of funding.

The LLC was registered on Nov. 26 in Hawaii, according to the FEC complaint, by Jennifer Lam, who was listed as the registered agent and manager. The donation of $150,000 to the 1820 PAC was made about a month later.

“Because (Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers) does not have a website, social media account, search engine presence or business record, the available facts do not suggest that (it) conducted any business or had sufficient income from assets, investment earnings, business revenues, or bona fide capital investments to cover the $150,000 contribution to 1820 PAC at the time the contribution was made, without an infusion of funds provided to them for that purpose,” the complaint reads.

Federal election laws prohibit making “contributions in the name of another.”

FEC complaints are increasingly used by partisan groups to generate headlines but they rarely amount to much. That’s especially true at the moment since the FEC does not currently have a quorum of commissioners, rendering it unable to levy any action. Commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

The Campaign Legal Center was founded in 2002 and is led by Trevor Potter, former counsel to the late Sen. John McCain in his 2000 and 2008 Republican presidential campaigns. The organization receives funding from numerous sources, many of them left-leaning.

The 1820 PAC, which has supported Collins’ bid for a fifth term, is linked to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is one of the reasons the U.S. Senate race in Maine has featured record spending.

In December, the right-learning Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Maine Momentum, which has been raising money and running negative ads against Collins, accusing the PAC of advancing the state Democratic party’s interests.

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage called the recent FEC complaint a “retaliatory attack,” by supporters of one of Collins’ main challengers, Democrat Sara Gideon. The state party has accused Gideon of improper fundraising multiple times, including in a formal complaint last week.

According to a letter from Chair Demi Kouzounas, the party has accused Gideon’s leadership political action committee – which she created to help Democratic State House candidates get elected – of failing to disclose expenditures for several Facebook ad campaigns. That complaint will be heard by the Maine Ethics Commission in next month.

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