Federal Elections Commission members question dismissal of complaint against Congressman Kevin Yoder
Topeka ? Two members of the Federal Elections Commission said in a recent letter that they object to the dismissal of a complaint against Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder.
Commission chairwoman Cynthia Bauerly and commissioner Ellen Weintraub, both Democrats, claimed a majority on the commission embraced “deliberate misinterpretation” of campaign finance law to close the case against Yoder, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday.
Bauerly and Weintraub said the three-person majority on the commission engaged in a “word game” to assist Yoder, a Republican.
“It is particularly disappointing to have such misleading trickery encouraged by this deliberate misinterpretation of the statute,” Bauerly and Weintraub said in their letter.
Yoder was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November after defeating Democrat Stephene Moore. During the race, Moore’s campaign filed a complaint with the FEC over a website created by Yoder’s staff, stephenemoore.com, intended to be a source of criticism of Moore.
Yoder said the website was a “lighthearted” attempt to show Moore’s political frailties. Three FEC members voted April 26 in Yoder’s favor.
Federal election rules prohibit an “unauthorized committee” from including the name of a candidate in the title of a fundraising project or other communication. A committee can include the name of a candidate in the title of a special project or other message if the title clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the named candidate.
Moore campaign manager Matt Sinovic said the website constituted a “clear violation” of federal campaign law. Public viewers of the Yoder-sponsored vehicle could be tricked into believing they were looking at Stephene Moore’s official web site, he said.
The Yoder campaign affirmed it was responsible for content on the alternative website, but it sidestepped sanctions by deploying an argument persuasive to a majority on the commission.
Yoder said his campaign didn’t violate the prohibition on use of a federal candidate’s name by an “unauthorized committee” because Yoder for Congress was, in fact, an authorized committee under federal law.
FEC members Caroline Hunter, Donald McGahn and Matthew Peterson voted April 26 to accept Yoder’s logic. Hunter, McGahn and Petersen are Republicans.
Alissa McCurley, spokeswoman for Yoder in Washington, D.C., said the congressman was pleased with the final ruling.
Bauerly and Weintraub released a letter at the end of June. They said Yoder was operating outside authorization necessary to properly create an anti-Moore website, they said.
“Otherwise any candidate committee could create misleading website’s or undertake any activity purportedly on behalf of any other committee to attempt to confuse voters,” their letter said.