Nevada Democrats filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission today charging Sharron Angle and fellow Republican Danny Tarkanian with illegal campaigning.
Since Tarkanian was defeated in the GOP Senate primary in June, he has stepped up his activities on behalf of Angle’s candidacy to oust Sen. Harry Reid. Democrats say the Angle campaign provides Tarkanian with talking points and has recruited him to appear at events on her behalf.
According to the Democrats, the problem is that Tarkanian has formed a separate anti-Reid political committee called Harry Reid Votes. Federal law makes it illegal for political committees to coordinate their actions with candidates. Any activities, radio or TV ads could be regarded as illegal in-kind campaign contributions if they exceeds $5,000.
"Danny Tarkanian has violated the (Federal Election Campaign Act) because he has created a political committee to attack Harry Reid, while at the same time acting as an agent of Sharron Angle’s Senate campaign," the Nevada Democratic Party said in a seven-page complaint filed today.
The Democrats further charge Tarkanian should not be allowed to use Reid’s name in the title of his organization, and that its radio ads carry insufficient disclaimers.
The Angle campaign had not seen the complaint, "but our lawyers will review it when we get it," spokesman Jarrod Agen said. "We are very careful to follow all laws and regulations."
"The Democrats are desperate and I’d expect them to issue several false claims like this to grab headlines," Agen said.
Tarkanian had not yet responded to a query about the complaint.
In the heat of election battles across the country, the filing of FEC complaints is not uncommon, and it could take months for the agency to resolve individual cases, according to Dave Levinthal, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics.
In the short term, filing an election complaint against an opponent "could give you a little bit of a public relations boost or throw a bomb their way," Levinthal said.
"For campaigns that are scratching and clawing their way to Election Day it is one little tool in an arsenal of weapons that campaigns employ."
Nevada Democratic Party spokeswoman Phoebe Sweet said that, short of a quick FEC ruling, "we hope (the complaint) would stop the illegal behavior." She added Tarkanian was scheduled to appear for Angle tonight at a candidate forum at Sun City Summerlin.