WASHINGTON – Rep. Al Wynn’s campaign charged Tuesday that his Democratic primary challenger Donna Edwards violated federal election laws by coordinating with organizations that supported her candidacy.
Wynn spokeswoman Lori Sherwood filed a 134-page complaint with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday. It alleges that Edwards’ leadership of the social justice activist organization Arca Foundation has led to illicit and unethical collaboration by her campaign with Arca affiliate organizations.
“In her position as Executive Director of Arca, Ms. Edwards has the ability to direct and influence decision making within these political organizations. Thus the expenditures made by the (Service Employees International Union), Emily’s List and others to her campaign can in no way be called independent,” the document states. “(They) are all undertaken to avoid federal campaign contribution limits.”
Edwards, who came within 3,000 votes of knocking off Wynn in 2006, called the complaint “desperate.”
“This is a desperate, 11th-hour attempt by the congressman to deflect from the fact that groups representing the core of the Democratic Party and the issues it stands for — worker’s rights, affordable housing, protecting women’s right to choose, the environment — have decided that they want to fire him and are supporting me because they know I stand with them and always have,” said a prepared statement by Edwards.
The FEC complaint alleges that Arca Foundation granted a total of $4,289,640 to 39 organizations from 2002 through 2006. Board members, employees and political action committees of these organizations gave Edwards’ campaign more than $138,500 (in 2006 through the third quarter of 2007), according to the statement.
In 2000, Edwards joined the Arca Foundation as executive director. She took a leave of absence starting Sept. 3, 2007.
The complaint also states that campaign literature paid for by the 1199 SEIU (United Healthcare Workers East) Federal PAC appears to be the “direct result of collaboration between the Edwards campaign and SEIU.” The literature, however, states that it was not authorized by any candidate or their committee.
An e-mail sent by Emily’s List to raise money for Edwards’ campaign also “could violate federal campaign finance law,” the complaint said. Other allegations involve wrongdoing with the League of Conservation Voters, Citizens Services and the nonprofit They Work for Us.
Under Internal Revenue Service code, individuals and organizations may make “independent expenditures” on behalf of a candidate of unlimited amounts. However, the expenditures must be entirely separate from the campaign they support.
Since Edwards’ loss in 2006, she has expanded her endorsement base, gaining support from women’s organizations and labor unions. This year’s race is considered a toss-up.
Monday, Wynn was asked about the expected result in the Feb. 12 primary.
“I expect to win,” said the eight-term congressman, adding “no, it’s not going to be by a smaller margin.”