Republican officials will soon file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., that accuses him of illegally accepting pro bono legal services, a senior party officer tells the Center for Public Integrity.
The pending complaint, which a Van Hollen spokeswoman blasted as a "frivolous action," will argue that the congressman failed to disclose as campaign contributions free legal help he's received from several campaign reform groups as part of a federal lawsuit he's brought against the FEC. The complaint will also call into question the very legality of the pro bono assistance.
Republicans' rationale for the complaint: Van Hollen has stated in court documents that his political campaign would be directly affected by the outcome of ongoing case Van Hollen v. FEC, which aimed to reveal donors behind certain kinds of political attack ads that secretive nonprofit organizations sponsored. Thus, the free legal aid to affect the outcome of the case should be reported as in-kind campaign contributions.
The GOP party officer who confirmed the complaint declined to say who in the Republican party would specifically file it.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, for its part, cheered the pending complaint, although officials there would not confirm whether the committee would itself sign on.
“It is beyond ironic for the former head of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] to file a lawsuit asking for stricter regulations on reporting political campaign finances and then fail to adhere to existing federal election campaign guidelines," NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said. "Guess Congressman Van Hollen is putting new meaning to the phrase put your money where your mouth is."
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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.