Conservative Union of America examined in Kelsey’s campaign finance inquiry – TNJTNJ
A federal investigation into campaign finance deals by State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) examines the deals of Matt Schlapp and the Conservative Union of America, according to a report of The Dispatch.
The Conservative news site reports that federal agents interviewed current and former ACU employees about financial matters and what one person called their “knowledge of the events leading up to Brian Kelsey’s endorsement.” .
The Tennessee Journal learned in 2019 that state lawmakers had been called in for talks with Justice Department investigators to discuss alleged donations of straw to Kelsey’s 2016 campaign for fourth place in the Republican nomination for a 8th Congressional District open race. Candidates are prohibited from using the money collected for state races in federal campaigns.
As first reported in 2017 by Tennessee (and later augmented by a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission), Kelsey’s state committee, Red State PAC, paid thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fellow state lawmakers, who are then returned and made donations to his account in Congress. The former chairman of the state Senate bench also transferred over $ 100,000 from his state account to the Standard Club PAC, which then gave money to the Conservative Union of America – both directly and through another committee led by conservative businessman Andy Miller Jr. The national group at the time was independent spending on Kelsey’s behalf. Kelsey has denied any wrongdoing.
“It’s often difficult to cut through muddled campaign rhetoric to determine which candidate is the best Tory in a race, but we think it’s actually an easy call,” Schlapp said at the time. “If voters in West Tennessee are looking for a proven leader with a conservative track record, the decision is easy. Brian Kelsey is the real deal.
The non-partisan campaign legal center has filed complaints against Kelsey, the ACU and others with the the Federal Election Commission and at the Ministry of Justice in 2017. Unidentified sources said The Dispatch they had been interviewed in recent months about Kelsey’s approval.
“They asked me about Matt Schlapp and [ACU Executive Director] Dan Schneider’s involvement in the organization, how they were involved in disbursing money and deciding who to support financially, ”one person told the publication. “One of the questions that really stood out to me was, ‘Was Matt Schlapp present at these meetings when they were deciding who to support? ” I said yes. And they said, “So was he directly involved in the decisions to financially support the candidates?” I said, I don’t know. And they said, ‘But would it be weird if Matt Schlapp does not have know?’ I said yes.”
The ACU issued a statement downplaying the importance of the investigation.
“We are aware of the persistent campaign finance allegations from the 2016 election cycle that were reported in several news outlets after a Soros-funded group complained,” spokeswoman Regina Bratton said. “We continue to believe that ACU’s activities, which took place over five years ago, were in accordance with the law. We have been assured that ACU is not the target of any government review at this time. ”
The Campaign Legal Center, which was founded by former Republican FEC member Trevor Potter, received donations from the Open Society Foundations of George Soros. The group lodged complaints against candidates from both parties.
A spokesperson said The Tennessee Journal at the end of 2019 that Schlapp had neither been questioned by federal investigators nor testified before the grand jury.
The report’s focus on events that took place more than five years ago could be an effort to point out that the statute of limitations may have expired for events that took place in the summer of 2016, according to The Dispatch. But federal defense attorney Ken White told the publication that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“It really depends on whether they have continuous driving,” White said. “For the statute of limitations, one of the many things in the federal government’s bag of tricks is to use ongoing conspiracies. Let’s say the ongoing conspiracy is to defraud the federal government by making fake FEC deposits: The law on this conspiracy allegation only begins to apply in the last overt act in support of the conspiracy. So often you make the FEC statements, and maybe you send someone money that is the proceeds of crime. Or you say to someone, “don’t talk to the cops” in order to cover up the crime. “
Campaign Legal Center chief of staff, former FEC lawyer Adav Noti, said The Dispatch the group had yet to receive its usual notification that the complaint had been tried despite being “on hold for a very long time”.
“The allegations in our complaint are really, really bad,” Noti told the publication. “These are not trivial shenanigans. It is true that $ 100,000 is not a huge sum, but it is not nothing for a congressional race in Tennessee either. And the two-part scheme to bring it back to the countryside – if that’s what happened, that’s a very serious violation. It is not a technical problem or a technical problem.
Kelsey reissued her standard statement on the investigation for Sending: “I welcome any investigation because all donations were made in accordance with the law and on the advice of a lawyer. “