Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks at a campaign rally at the Alliant Energy Center on March 26, 2016 in Madison, Wis.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty

David Brock group hits Bernie Sanders with ethics complaints

A group founded by Hillary Clinton ally David Brock filed three complaints with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday against the Bernie Sanders’ campaign and two allied outside groups.

One complaint from the American Democracy Legal Fund alleges Sanders’ campaign accepted more money from individual donors than allowed under federal law. Another accuses the campaign of failing to include proper disclosure on a Facebook ad it ran after the New Hampshire primary. The third claims a pro-Sanders super PAC has improperly using Sanders’ name, and also alleges illegal coordination.

The FEC has previously warned Sanders about excessive contributions. But with the FEC perpetually deadlocked, these kinds of complaints often go nowhere, and sometimes are used more to generate news coverage than actual enforcement action.

The Sanders campaign rejected the complaints, noting that Clinton aides have spent much this week complaining he has been too aggressive in confronting Clinton.

“Just one day after the Clinton campaign said we needed to change our tone, the leaders of their coordinated super PAC, which is funded by millions from Wall Street, filed baseless and frivolous complaints with the FEC. Tells you all you need to know,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told MSNBC.

Brock founded the ADLF in 2014 to essentially weaponize the political ethics process against opponents. But it’s always been used against Republicans – this is the first time the ADLF has filed a complaint against a Democrat.

The group’s co-founder is Brad Woodhouse, who is also the president of the super PAC Correct the Record, which coordinates directly with the Clinton campaign though a novel legal arrangement.

Brock’s sharp elbows in dealing with Sanders have provoked the ire of Clinton aides on several occasions. Sanders has raised millions of dollars by invoking Brock’s attacks to supporters. His camp believes Clinton officials’ private-but-noisy complaints about Brock are just cover so they have plausible deniability while he does the wetwork.

If the complaints do lead to FEC action, however, it could undermine two of Sanders’ biggest strengths: His perception of honesty and status as a campaign finance crusader.