Monday was a day of dueling allegations regarding campaign violations in the New Hampshire race for U.S. Senate.
Republicans filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, calling on the agency to investigate whether the campaign of incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen coordinated political advertising with Sen. Harry Reid's Senate Majority PAC.
FEC rules prohibit campaigns from coordinating with third-party political action committees, which are supposed to act independently.
On the same day, Democrats seized on comments made by Republican candidate Scott Brown on a Sunday talk show, in which he said he decided to run on Valentine's Day.
"Scott Brown's announcement on WMUR's CloseUp that he made a decision to run for the Senate on Valentine's Day — Feb. 14, 2014 — raises potential legal questions," said Julie McClain, communications director for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "The revelation on the program suggests that he decided to run for office a full five days before he renewed his contract with FOX News and continued cashing in on his lucrative deal as a political pundit."
McClain said if Brown did indeed make a decision on Feb. 14, he spent almost a full month claiming that he had not made a decision, skirting FEC regulations that would have triggered filing requirements.
A spokesperson for the Brown campaign accused the Democrats of raising the question of when Brown decided to run as a distraction from the formal GOP complaint now before the FEC.
Brown told WMUR CloseUp host Josh McElveen that he was not recruited to run.
"The fact is that Gail and I made that decision actually on Valentine's Day," Brown said. "We were at the Wentworth having dinner and I was complaining once again about what was happening. The rollout (of Obamacare and) how businesses are getting hurt; how we should be doing it better, having better representation. She finally looked at me and said, 'Honey, stop complaining. I'm in; the kids are in; go take back our country; go win this thing; go down there and solve the problems this country needs you to solve."
McClain did not cite a specific provision in FEC regulations that would have been triggered by the Valentine's Day decision, but said the party was investigating possible violations. Brown did not file a statement of candidacy with the FEC until March 21.
Campaign ads at issue
The two campaigns have been engaged in a near-daily exchange of charges and counter-charges, particularly in the area of campaign finance, since before Brown even announced he was a candidate.
Negative campaign ads paid for by third-party groups have been a particular flash-point, with Shaheen offering to discourage such spending if Brown would as well — the so-called People's Pledge, which Brown adhered to in his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid in Massachusetts.
Republicans last week pounced on a series of tweets from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, including an "important message for New Hampshire" about Shaheen.
The DSCC tweet contained a link to a page on the Shaheen campaign's website, which contained language, research data and imagery that New Hampshire GOP Chairman Jennifer Horn likened to a "script" for anti-Brown ads that started to appear within hours.
Horn is the plaintiff in the FEC complaint filed on Monday — the N.H. Republican Party v. Jeanne Shaheen, Shaheen for Senate, the DSCC and Reid's Senate Majority PAC.
The complaint alleges that Shaheen and the Reid SuperPAC violated the Federal Elections Campaign Act by disseminating coordinated communications, resulting in illegal contributions.
"The FEC prohibits non-disclosed dissemination, distribution, or re-publication, in whole or in part, of any broadcast or any written, graphic, or other form of campaign materials prepared by the candidate as such constitutes an illegal contribution to that candidate," according to the complaint.
The Shaheen campaign called the charges baseless.
"On a day when Scott Brown was under fire for revealing he'd been giving phony answers about when he decided to run for Senate, it's no surprise that Republicans are filing a phony complaint," wrote Kirstein in a statement to the media. "It has no merit and is entirely false."
A Democratic party official, speaking on background, said that the content of the ad at issue is consistent with themes that have been in play for months, and there is no way a political ad could have been produced and placed on television in the time between the DSCC tweets and the ad's appearance on air.
Horn contested that claim. "Ad-makers are able to create, edit and ship television spots in a matter of hours, not days," she said.