Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mullin downplays FEC 'Statement of Candidacy'; plus a detailed assessment

Following my post on Saturday and some Tulsa-area news organizations picking up the story, Congressman Markwayne Mullin's campaign is downplaying the impact of the Statement of Candidacy he recently filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Here's a short press release the Mullin campaign issued:

Mullin Response to Blog Post

Westville - "Recent blog posts and media reports claiming Congressman Mullin has filed for re-election are inaccurate. These false reports appear to have been generated by a routine filing with the Federal Election Commission. Congressman Mullin and his family are continuing to pray about this important decision."

Since the press release complains about "inaccurate" and "false reports", let's review the matter in detail. On March 1st, Mullin received a warning from the FEC, stating:
This letter constitutes formal written notification that Mullin for Congress is filing reports of receipts and disbursements (FEC FORM 3) that appear to be for the 2018 election. A review of these reports indicates that your principal campaign committee has no debts from the previous election cycle, and has accepted contributions and/or made expenditures in support of your 2018 candidacy in excess of $5,000, thus meeting the definition of "candidate" per Federal Election Campaign Laws. (11 CFR §100.3(a))

You must either disavow these activities by notifying the Commission in writing that you are not a candidate, or redesignate your principal campaign committee by filing a Statement of Candidacy (FEC FORM 2) within thirty-five (35) days from the date of this letter. 

If Congressman Mullin had not decided yet whether he would break his term-limits pledge and seek a fourth term, he could simply have "disavowed these activities by notifying the Commission in writing that [he is] not a candidate", and ceased campaign activities (such as fundraising) until he made up his mind.

Instead, the next day, on March 2nd, Mullin declared his 2018 candidacy with the Federal Election Commission by filing this Statement of Candidacy form:

Has Markwayne Mullin filed his candidacy with the Oklahoma Secretary of State? No; the filing period to appear on the ballot has not arrived yet (it will be in April 2018). Does that mean he is not a candidate until that time? No. Here's what determines the threshold of a candidate, directly from the FEC:

Mullin meets at least three of those four conditions.

Mullin says he has not decided whether he will seek a fourth term or not (despite his black-and-white, oft-repeated pledge to serve no more than three terms), and that he is not yet a candidate for re-election. The FEC says otherwise, and his Statement of Candidacy form and his campaign fundraising since the 2016 general election is their proof.

Congressman Jim Bridenstine made the same term-limits pledge Mullin did. Unlike his 2nd District colleague, Bridenstine has been clear that he will keep his word and not seek a fourth term. Did Mullin have to file his Statement of Candidacy because his campaign account has cash in it? No. Bridenstine and Mullin have over $150,000 in their campaign accounts, yet only one of them had to file a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC. Why is that? Because Bridenstine isn't raising funds for 2018. That's what a non-candidate does. That's what someone who isn't seeking reelection does.

Mullin raised $139,578 in the first quarter ($114,450 from PACs), spent $121,651, and had $170,260 cash on hand at the close of the reporting period. Bridenstine? He's raised $0 since November 8th (election day), and is in the process of dispersing the remainder of his campaign funds.

If Congressman Mullin had any intention to not seek reelection, thus keeping his word to not run for a fourth term, he would not have continued to seek campaign contributions after the 2016 election ended. That's what Jim Bridenstine did.

Markwayne Mullin, by signing the Statement of Candidacy form, agreed to the following statements:

  • "Name of Candidate (in full): Mullin, Markwayne, Mr."
  • "State & District of Candidate: OK  02"
  • "I hereby designate the following named political committee [Mullin for Congress] as my Principal Campaign Committee for the 2018 election."
  • "I hereby authorize the following named committee [Mullin Victory Fund], which is NOT my principal campaign committee, to receive and expend funds on behalf of my candidacy."
  • "I certify that I have examined this Statement and to the best of my knowledge and belief it is true, correct and complete."

If it walks like a duck... talks like a duck... and is called a duck by the duck-keeper... it's a duck. As long as Markwayne Mullin continues to raise funds and conduct campaign activities, he is a candidate for reelection in 2018, thus breaking his term-limits pledge.


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