The Pa. GOP is trying to succeed where so many before them have failed: to make Joe Sestak say what he’s running for.
The party filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Election Commission, accusing the former Congressman and former Admiral of raising lots of money without making a formal declaration of his candidacy.
The legal action first was reported by Thomas Fitzgerald of thePhiladelphia Inquirer.
A full copy of the complaint is here (PDF).
Sestak has kept a public profile in recent years. But just as he did in 2009 — when he teased a primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter for months before actually declaring one — he’s been coy about his intentions since his close U.S. Senate defeat in 2010.
Speculation heated up when he raised a whopping $460,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31 this year under the umbrella of an exploratory committee. He hasn’t said what, if anything, he plans to run for. He could seek another term in Congress, challenge Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016, or transfer all of the money into a state account and run for Governor in 2014.
Because his haul was so big his indecision crosses the line, the PAGOP says. He must file an official declaration of candidacy for one office.
The party wrote, “FEC regulations provide that an indication of candidate status is raising funds ‘in excess of what could reasonably be expected to be used for exploratory activities or undertakes activities designed to amass campaign funds that would be spent after he or she becomes a candidate’. 11 C.F.R.§100.72 (2).”
Sestak spent just over $10,000 in the first quarter, mostly on payroll expenses and maintenance of his VAN NGP donor database.
The PAGOP appears to have a valid compliant. $460,000 is a lot of money for an exploratory committee, especially because television and other ad spending is heavily constrained by the FEC.
Spokesman Edwin Wee said Sestak checked with the FEC not once but thrice — months ago, prior to receiving the GOP complaint — and was told that they are well within the limits of the law.
“It was validated with the FEC three times that exploratory committees have no statements of candidacy and that our fundraising was per its guidelines for an exploratory committee,” Wee said.
“If Joe Sestak wants to be a candidate for public office, he should be open and transparent about his intentions,” said PAGOP Chairman Rob Gleason. “While it’s beyond negligent and wrong for Joe Sestak to be violating the law, how can anyone trust him with more responsibility when he’s proven he can’t get his own affairs in order? Joe Sestak should return all funds raised improperly until he tells the public what he’s really up to.”