The Michigan Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Thursday seeking an investigation into whether U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land's campaign illegally coordinated with super PACs.
Land, a Republican candidate for the seat of retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), told an audience shortly after announcing her candidacy in August that "it's going to take a lot of resources" to win and indicated her campaign "has talked to a lot of those folks," referring to super PACs or other outside groups, according to a video of the event first published by The Huffington Post in September. (Watch the video above.)
While super PACs can raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, the groups can't donate money to a campaign and can't collaborate on campaign strategies with political candidates. Instead, super PAC money must be spent on independent political activity. Land, in her speech, "indicated that her campaign committee has had substantial discussions with Super PACs and requested and obtained their commitment to make expenditures on her behalf," which would violate federal election law, the Democrats' complaint to the FEC said.
"The FEC should immediately launch an investigation to shed light on the full scope of Land's discussions with outside groups, determine which groups she has coordinated with, and find out whether any of the outside attack ads already aired in Michigan constitute illegal in-kind contributions to Land's campaign," the complaint said.
Land, at her campaign event, said, "We've got new folks out there that are raising money –- that's the super PACs." She said super PACs are "committed to Michigan." She told the crowd that "the whole country is watching" and the outside groups "really want to support us here in Michigan."
After Land's campaign event, outside groups began pouring money into advertisements opposing Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), according to the FEC complaint. It alleged a super PAC named PURE PAC spent more than $100,000 on advertisements last fall specifically opposing Peters, who is running against Land for the open Senate seat.
But that money is small potatoes compared with a million-dollar television and radio advertising campaign recently launched against Peters by Americans for Prosperity, a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit founded by the Koch brothers. The advertising blitz is part of a larger campaign targeting Democratic Senate candidates in tough races around the country.
Land's campaign, which has repeatedly denied that Land has improperly coordinated with super PACs, released a statement to The Huffington Post.
"The Democrats accusations are false and offensive," said Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for Land. "The Democrats are desperate to do whatever they can to deceive Michigan voters to steal the election -- the same way they lied to Michigan families when they said folks would be able to keep their health care plan and doctor, which is clearly not true. No amount of baseless attacks will change the fact that Michigan deserves more than Washington insider Gary Peters."
Lon Johnson, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said in a statement: “After RNC Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land previously touted her pledges from special interest Super PACs, and is now dodging questions from reporters on the subject, it has become clear that an underhanded, backdoor, illegal deal has been made. We have an obligation to preserve the integrity and democracy of this U.S. Senate seat, and we will be taking action to protect Michigan from Ms. Land’s scheme to sell off our voice in the U.S. Senate to outside special interest groups.”