Open Secrets: John James Campaign Violated FEC Coordination Law…Again

Tori Sachs was “Supposed to Wait 120 Days Before Joining an Outside Group That Runs Ads Benefitting the Candidate.” 

Open Secrets reports that John James’ campaign appears to have violated FEC coordination law. According to the report, James’ former campaign manager, Tori Sachs, failed to follow the mandatory 120-day cooling off period before her dark money group Better Future Michigan ran attacks ads against Senator Gary Peters. This isn’t the first time James’ campaign broke coordination rules. In 2018, a Super PAC run by James consultants illegally republished a campaign ad, which prompted the FEC’s nonpartisan regulators to seek an investigation into the campaign. 

Read the report here

Open Secrets: Candidates and outside groups often coordinate, most recently in Michigan

By Karl Evers-Hillstrom

  • John James, the likely Republican challenger to Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), paid a political consultant to help manage his campaign in May 2019. Just a few months later, the same consultant was running a “dark money” group attacking Peters’ record.
  • The close ties between James and the dark money group are another instance of coordination between political campaigns and outside groups that Supreme Court justices said wouldn’t be an issue. 
  • Michigan political operative Tori Sachs, who managed James’ unsuccessful 2018 Senate campaign, was identified as the executive director of the anti-Peters nonprofit Better Future Michigan in late July. The group had just launched an ad campaign telling viewers that Peters would “eliminate your private health plan.” Less than three months earlier, she was paid $5,000 by James’ campaign for “management consulting,” according to FEC records.   
  • Campaign staffers are supposed to wait 120 days before joining an outside group that runs ads benefitting the candidate. And Better Future Michigan is certainly helping James. It’s spent about $244,000 attacking Peter on the airwaves, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 
  • This isn’t the first time James has been accused of coordinating with an outside group. In the 2018 Senate race, a pro-James super PAC that used the same consulting firm as James’ campaign reused footage from a James campaign video in its own ad. That led to an FEC complaint from James’ Republican primary opponent. The FEC’s attorneys recommended that the commission investigate further, but Republican commissioners voted to dismiss the complaint. 
  • “If spending is coordinated between a candidate and a big-money outside group, that is tantamount to a candidate accepting illegal campaign contributions because super PACs and dark money groups can accept unlimited amounts of money from individuals, labor unions, and corporations,” Michael Beckel said.
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