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Iowa candidate runs outside group supporting his campaign

May 23, 2018 GMT
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Jim Mowrer, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks during an election night rally, in Des Moines, Iowa. Mower, now a Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of State, has been helping run a political action committee that is supporting his campaign, a potential violation of state election law, disclosure filings show. (Rodney White /The Des Moines Register via AP, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Jim Mowrer, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks during an election night rally, in Des Moines, Iowa. Mower, now a Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of State, has been helping run a political action committee that is supporting his campaign, a potential violation of state election law, disclosure filings show. (Rodney White /The Des Moines Register via AP, File)

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A Democrat running for Iowa Secretary of State operates a political action committee that is supporting his campaign, despite a state law that appears to ban the practice, filings show.

Candidate Jim Mowrer has continued to serve as treasurer of The Majority Rules, which he created after the 2016 election to seek the abolishment of the electoral college. The PAC donated $1,500 to Mowrer’s campaign in January and has paid $12,000 to a Mowrer-managed company for consulting services since he launched his campaign last August, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The group also sent an April 5 email blast endorsing Mowrer’s campaign and those of three other candidates in Colorado, Ohio and Nevada, seeking donations to support them.

Iowa law says that candidates for state office cannot “establish, direct, or maintain a political committee.” An activist with the Republican Party of Iowa filed a formal complaint Tuesday alleging that Mowrer is breaking the law, seeking an investigation and “all appropriate sanctions and penalties” for any violations found.

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“Apart from the unseemly situation of a Treasurer of a PAC making expenditures to his own consulting company as well as his own campaign committee for public office, it is clear that Jim Mowrer has established, directed, or maintained a political committee,” lawyer William Gustoff wrote in the complaint to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

The board will consider the complaint at its meeting next month, director Megan Tooker said.

A lawyer representing Mowrer’s campaign, Grant Woodard, said he doesn’t believe the state law applies to the situation because The Majority Rules is a federal PAC.

“We look forward to defending ourselves in front of the board,” he said.

Campaign spokesman Sam Roecker called the complaint politically motivated and said he was confident the campaign is “in full compliance with the law.”

The law in question defines political committees as groups that spend at least $1,000 advocating for candidates for public office. Tooker said the board has never interpreted whether it applies to federal PACs that donate to state candidates.

Mowrer, 32, is an Iraq War veteran and former Pentagon official who has lost two prior runs for Congress in Iowa in 2014 and 2016. He is running against Des Moines businesswoman Deidre DeJear in the June 5 Democratic primary. The winner will take on the Republican incumbent, Paul Pate, in the November election in a race likely to focus on voting rights and election security.

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All three have faced ethics questions. DeJear last month returned a $5,000 donation from Emily’s LIST after The Associated Press found it was given in violation of a law barring PAC donations during the legislative session. Pate recently amended his personal financial disclosure to list his role with a company formed in November 2016 that has done around $2 million in real estate deals in the Cedar Rapids area.

Mowrer has said that he founded The Majority Rules after he was outraged that Donald Trump won the presidency even though Hillary Clinton received about 3 million more votes. The group has said that it backs candidates and ballot initiatives that support moving the presidential election to a national popular vote.

It’s also made moves that benefit Mowrer, who as treasurer is responsible for filing reports, depositing contributions, authorizing expenses and complying with laws.

Since March 2017, the group has paid $19,500 for “strategic consulting services” to JDM Consulting, LLC, a company managed by Mowrer. The group paid $4,000 last July to purchase an email list from Mowrer’s prior campaign and has given $3,700 to the Iowa Democratic Party.

Its April 5 endorsement stated that the group supports candidates who back “free and fair elections,” adding: “Jim knows how important protecting our voting rights is because he’s fought to protect them.”

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