by Javier Manjarres
Fresh off of her police altercation this past weekend, Debbie Wasserman Schultz again finds herself surrounded by questions concerning what appear to be clear violations of Federal Election/Campaign Finance law by her campaign for Congress.
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s latest mailer yet again overtly exploits her past battle with breast cancer, but it also contains a picture of the congresswoman talking to students in the courtyard of Florida International University’s North Dade Campus.
In addition, Wasserman Schultz has released a TV commercial using the same FIU courtyard which was used to film some ‘B-roll’ found in the ad. In both the commercial and the mail piece, ‘DWS’ for Congress staged the shots using college age students wearing apparel which advertises the school, Florida International University.
But here’s the rub- in order to use FIU’s taxpayer-funded campus or use their school’s logos/slogans, past congressional campaigns have been charged a ‘usage fee’ of anywhere between two and ten thousand dollars. One south Florida congressional campaign was charged five thousand dollars to use the FIU campus to film a campaign commercial.
Upon inspection of Wasserman Schultz’s campaign finance reports, there are no campaign fund distributions directly made out to the school. There is however the possibility that DWS for Congress hired a media company who in turn paid that school the usage fee.
We then contacted the FIU’s Media Relations department, and according to the school’s head of Media Relations Maydel Santana-Bravo, and mum’s the word. At first, Ms. Santana-Bravo asked us to send her the TV commercial, which we did. When we followed up with her for comment, Ms. Santana-Bravo stated, “We are doing some research internally to make sure we have our facts. I will get back to you tomorrow.”
Now Mrs. Santana-Bravo has responded by saying that,” she will have something for me by the end of today (Friday).”
Corporations and non-profit organizations, to include taxpayer funded state schools, are not allowed to donate or ‘in-kind’ any donations or services to congressional candidates. So if, the school allowed ‘DWS’ to use their school to film the commercial without a usage fee, then it clearly violated FEC law, and the ‘DWS’ for Congress campaign did as well by not reporting this disbursement.
We called the FEC for clarification on this matter and were told that whether the school in question was either a for-profit or non-profit, and if the facilities were used to film a commercial, the campaign in question needed to “pay rent” to the corporation (FIU).
The only exception for not “paying rent” to FIU, who is clearly a corporation, per the Division of Corporations of the state of Florida, was if the commercial was used for a “learning activity” with “no reference to the campaign.”
As you can see below, the ‘DWS’ for Congress clearly used the school for campaigning, not for any “learning activity.”
Here are a few other possible campaign finance law violations of the ‘DWS’ for Congress campaign: