Michigan Democratic Party Accuses Republican Candidate Of Flying In The Face Of FEC

Political strategists call it an "ugly win." You throw everything but the kitchen sink at your opponent as the campaign draws to a close, and pray the election goes your way. It's as brutish and nasty as a late hit on the quarterback. And just as mesmerizing to watch.

In the case of the race in the Michigan 1st Congressional District between Republican Dr. Dan Benishek and Democratic state Representative Gary McDowell, it has become obvious that both campaigns are hoping for an ugly win. A poll by the Detroit Free Press published October 22nd has Dr. Benishek ahead of Rep. McDowell by 42 percent to 40 percent (Independent candidate Glenn A. Wilson is polling at 8 percent). The EPIC-MRA poll has a 4.9 percent margin of error and so the race is, in essence, a dead heat with less than a week to go until November 2nd.

Since the poll results were released, the Benishek and McDowell camps have issued accusatory press releases almost daily. On October 26th, the Benishek camp sent out a press released titled, "Gary McDowell's Support for Canadian-Style Health Care Wrong For Patients." On the same day, the McDowell campaign issued a press released titled, "BENISHEK, WILSON CONTINUE TO PROMOTE ELIMINATION OF SOCIAL SECURITY."

On October 27th, the McDowell campaign, and the Michigan Democratic Party piled on. The Press Release is titled, "MDP CHAIR MARK BREWER TO HOLD CONFERENCE CALL REGARDING BENISHEK CAMPAIGN'S ILLEGAL USE OF PRIVATE PLANE." At 3 p.m. EST on October 27th, Mark Brewer held a press conference via phone during which he announced that the MDP intended to file a formal complaint with the FEC against Dan Benishek for allegedly breaking federal campaign finance rules by using the private jet of a supporter while campaigning in the Michigan 1st. During the press conference, Mr. Brewer accused Dr. Benishek of "thumbing his nose" at the law.

The FEC law to which Mr. Brewer referred to was changed in 2007, and federal candidates were forbidden from accepting free rides on corporate jets. Candidates must fly commercial or must charter planes at the market rate. If the MDP's allegations are true, Dr. Benishek is flying in the face of FEC regulations in good company.

On October 1, 2010, it was reported on that the Maine GOP had filed a formal complaint against Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for flying to a New York City fundraiser on a private jet. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported in May that in March 2010, during the primary, Republican Sharon Angle was caught jetting to a Tea Party rally on a private jet. Angle's opponent jumped on the alleged campaign finance violation, and Angle subsequently paid above the going charter rate for her flight, and went on to win the primary election.

As for Dr. Benishek, he's not denying the alleged violation of campaign finance laws concerning the use of private jets. A Benishek committee spokesman told the Petoskey News on October 26th that, "Our review of the candidate's travel since March suggests two flights which, although arguably personal in nature, may need to be reimbursed at a commercial charter rate. The candidate has never run for office before, and our operation was not aware of the recent change in regulations regarding air travel, and consequently may have inadvertently erred in this regard. In an abundance of caution, our accountant is contacting the FEC to correct any reporting errors. We will take all steps necessary to ensure full compliance with reporting and reimbursement requirements."