Watchdog: House Democrats Illegally Influenced CO Primary Election

  • The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust alleges the campaign arm of House Democrats provided illegal in-kind contributions to Colorado congressional candidate Jason Crow.
  • The DCCC intervened in the Colorado Democratic primary in favor of Crow, according to a recorded conversation between House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Crow’s primary opponent.
  • Crow obtained exclusive access to polling data and mailing lists from the DCCC, items of value that FACT alleges should have been reported as campaign contributions.

A non-partisan ethics watchdog filed a complaint Tuesday against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for allegedly providing illegal in-kind contributions to Jason Crow, a Democrat running for office in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed the complaint with the Federal Election Commission after The Intercept published audio in April of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer pressuring Crow’s primary challenger, Levi Tillemann, to drop out of the race to clear the way for Crow, the establishment’s preferred candidate for the June 26 primary.

“In the present case, it is clear the DCCC sought to influence the primary election and gave in-kind contributions to Crow to support his primary race,” FACT’s complaint reads. “The DCCC requested other candidates drop out of the primary race and only provided valuable resources to Crow to assist his primary campaign.”

Tillemann provided The Intercept with a December 2016 recording of Hoyer urging him to drop out of the race, saying the DCCC, the official campaign arm of House Democrats, had made a behind closed doors decision that Crow would be the nominee for the general election.

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“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual, and very interesting,” Hoyer said. “But it was clear that it was our policy and our hope that, early on, try to come to an agreement on a candidate that we thought could win the general, and to give that candidate all the help we could give them.”

“So your position is, a decision was made very early on before voters had a say, and that’s fine because the DCCC knows better than the voters of the Sixth Congressional District, and we should line up behind that candidate?” Tillemann asked.

“That’s certainly a consequence of our decision,” Hoyer responded.

David Aarestad, a former candidate for the Sixth District who endorsed Crow in March, told The Intercept the DCCC had provided Crow assistance in the form of polling data and email lists, resources that weren’t given to the other Democratic challengers.

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“It was the D-trip. I was given extensive promises in March of last year that they would not do anything to favor one candidate over another, that they had learned from the mistakes made during the Bernie-Hillary fallout, and that they would do everything the same for all of the candidates,” Aarestad said.

“But, they made polling data available to Crow that they did not make available to me. They made other resources available to Crow that they did not make available to me, such as email lists for fundraising purposes,” he added.

FACT’s complaint argues the polling information and mailing lists the DCCC provided exclusively to Crow are things of value that should have been reported as in-kind contributions from the DCCC to Crow’s campaign.

However, neither the DCCC nor Crow reported the in-kind contributions as required by federal law, according to the complaint.

“Candidate reporting requirements exist to prevent corruption and ensure transparency in our elections, which is something the DCCC showed a blatant disregard for in this case,” said FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold.

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“What’s equally disturbing is that this type of Machiavellian behavior has been endorsed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi,” Arnold added, referring to Pelosi’s defense of the DCCC’s intervention in favor of Crow.

“In terms of candidates and campaigns I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in — a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election,” Pelosi told reporters in April following the tape’s release.

“So if the reality is that some candidates can get into the general (more) than others, then that’s a clear-eyes conversation,” she added.

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