California Congressman Rudy Salas announced his campaign for Congress in late October, entering the race to challenge Rep. David Valadao.
Less than three weeks later, a right-wing federal watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over whether his campaign had embezzled funds from its State Assembly for its national candidacy based on taped signs used during its launch event.
Salas, a Democrat who represents the district around Bakersfield in the California State Assembly, kicked off his campaign at a private event in his hometown on October 18. After the event, Republican watchdogs noticed that several campaign signs used at the event appeared to have been reused. of his campaign in the Assembly.
The signs are taped with the word “congress” covering what is believed to be the word “assembly,” said the watchdog that filed the complaint, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust. FACT cited an article published by a local journalist with photos of the signs used in front of the Salas podium and held by supporters at the event.
The Federal Election Commission, which oversees campaign finance rules, requires that a candidate’s committee “not accept funds or assets transferred from a committee established by the same candidate for a non-electoral campaign. federal “, which means that money or signs from an assembly cannot be used for a convention.
Under the same rules, the non-federal committee – in this case, the Salas Assembly campaign committee – can refund the remaining funds to its contributors. The federal committee – in this case, the Salas Congress Campaign Committee – can solicit donations from the same people.
Salas did not say whether the signs came from his campaign in the Assembly, deflecting questions from a recent local television interview about them.
FACT also wants the Federal Election Commission to look into other unspecified potential violations, saying its campaign may not have disclosed who paid for the signs in writing, another FEC demand and how he could s ” appropriate the remaining funds from its most recent mounting campaign.
“Salas’ refusal to answer straightforward, straightforward questions about his federal campaign indicates that an FEC investigation is necessary, and this is disrespectful to citizens who deserve straightforward answers from elected officials,” wrote Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT, in a statement. of the complaint.
FACT is a nonprofit that describes itself as a non-partisan watchdog to hold public officials accountable. It was previously headed by Matthew Whitaker, acting attorney general in the Trump administration, before Arnold took over. All of his recent complaints have been directed against Democrats.
“We had a big launch event where Rudy focused on his delivery record for families in the valley. He was the only Democrat to vote against increasing the gasoline tax while leading overtime pay for farm workers. Workers need higher wages, not higher taxes, ”a Salas campaign spokesperson told the Fresno Bee following the complaint. “Given the record of the Republican political establishment in Washington on these two issues, we understand why they would prefer to talk about anything but this. This is a false problem. “
Anyone can file a complaint with the FEC. The FEC examines every complaint filed, according to the commission. Penalties range from a “letter reiterating compliance obligations to a conciliation agreement, which may include a civil monetary penalty”.
Valadao has had a few ethics complaints filed against him with the Congressional Ethics Office, which oversees regulations for sitting representatives, including one on his use of funds during the 2018 elections. The ethics office does not review all complaints filed with its office; anyone can drop one.
Valadao is one of the House’s most vulnerable Republican candidates in the 2022 midterm election, according to experts. He has represented the district since 2013, briefly losing his seat to former Democratic Representative TJ Cox in the 2018 election and reclaiming it in 2020.
Salas is one of the seven contenders for the siege of Valadao. So far, three other Democrats have declared themselves for the race: Nicole Parra, a former member of the California assembly; the mayor of Delano, Bryan Osorio; and Angel Lara, a former staff member of Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The Republican challengers are Adam Medeiros, a businessman; Martha Flores-Gibson, consultant; and Chris Mathys, a pro-Trump businessman and former city councilor. Cox has yet to say if he will show up.
It’s unclear how the redistribution, the process by which legislative boundaries are reconfigured in the wake of census population growth data, will ultimately change the demographics of voters there. California lost a seat in the House due to low population growth, lowering its delegation to 52, meaning the cards must adjust to eliminate a district.