Michigan Democrats claim John James solicited support from ‘dark money’ group

The Michigan Democratic Party filed a complaint alleging Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James attempted to solicit financial support from political organizations Monday.



a man in a blue shirt: Republican Senate hopeful John James met with Kalamazoo Mortgage Hero Salute, on Monday, July 20, 2020. James wrote a $10,000 check to Kalamazoo Mortgage Hero Salute Monday, supplying the nonprofit with funds that will partially go toward a college scholarship.


© Nicole Hester/Nicole Hester/Mlive.com/mlive.com/TNS
Republican Senate hopeful John James met with Kalamazoo Mortgage Hero Salute, on Monday, July 20, 2020. James wrote a $10,000 check to Kalamazoo Mortgage Hero Salute Monday, supplying the nonprofit with funds that will partially go toward a college scholarship.

The complaint is the second charge MDP filed with the Federal Elections Commission against James’ campaign this election cycle, neither of which have been resolved as of Aug. 24. A Michigan Democratic Party spokesperson said the complaints illustrate a pattern of behavior, though James’ campaign characterized the accusations as partisan attacks.

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James is a 39-year-old Farmington Hills businessman challenging first-term U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township. James also ran for Senate in 2018 but was unsuccessful.

The latest complaint concerns an internal memo from the James campaign that was published by Politico. The finance memo argues James is in a strong position to win the election, partly because he is consistently outraising his Democratic opponent, but has “no corresponding conservative ally” buying media ads.

“With the proper resources, John James is poised to become the next U.S. Senator from Michigan,” the memo states.

The MDP claims the memo was given to the press so it would be released in a news article and reach independent political groups that aren’t allowed to coordinate with candidates. The complaint contains no evidence showing how Politico obtained the memo, but Democrats claim James’ campaign likely had a hand in ensuring it was published.

The same day the memo was published online, news broke about a Political Action Committee reserving $4.5 million in television, cable and radio ads to attack Peters. The ads were financed by One Nation, a political nonprofit that is not required to disclose its donors.

“The memorandum published by Politico is clearly written to solicit and direct the spending of dark corporate money in support of Mr. James’ campaign,” the Democratic complaint states.

James’ campaign dismissed the allegations in a statement Monday. Spokesperson Abby Walls noted that Peters’ campaign was also accused of illegally soliciting support from a so-called “dark money” nonprofit in 2019.

“This is an absurd claim from an organization willing to look the other way while their candidate collects tens of millions in free advertising and who once used his campaign website for the sole purpose of signaling outside help,” Walls said.

Read more: Complaint alleges Peters solicited campaign ads from dark money group

Simon Schuster, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the FEC is unlikely to reach a decision on the complaint, given that it does not have enough voting members to constitute a quorum.

“With that reality in place, you have to assume there is a public view in mind when making this complaint,” he said. “The FEC simply can’t enforce any violations, even if they found one.”

Schuster also noted the complaint filed against Peters, saying based on the allegations, neither campaign “has its hands fully clean” when it comes to having relationships with outside organizations.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes signed the complaint. Spokesperson Elena Kuh said James “continues to demonstrate he’s in the pocket of special interests.”

“John James will stop at nothing to try to save his flailing campaign, even if it means apparently violating federal law to get dark money support with ads that lie to voters,” Kuhn said in a statement.

Michigan Democrats filed another complaint against James in March, alleging he coordinated with his former campaign manager to form a PAC in support of his Senate bid. Better Future Michigan Fund has spent $1.5 million to oppose Peters, around half of which came from donations by the DeVos family.

The MDP filed a complaint in June arguing Trump administration officials illegally promoted James’ campaign during a taxpayer-funded White House event earlier this year. James attended a “listensing session” with Black leaders organized by President Donald Trump and other administration officials during a visit to Ypsilanti in May.

That complaint, filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, alleges James benefitted from political support expressed by Trump at the meeting.

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Complaint alleges Peters solicited campaign ads from dark money group

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