We may be set for a test of whether campaign finance laws still have any teeth left at all. And it’s all thanks to Kid Rock.
The “American Bad Ass” is a vocal Trump supporter who’s been making noises about challenging Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who’s up for re-election next year.
But last week, Common Cause filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Justice Department, charging that Kid Rock has been campaigning “all summer long,” without filing the required paperwork or officially declaring his candidacy.
Kid Rock’s response: “Go fuck yourselves.”
In its complaint, Common Cause noted that Kid Rock has set up a campaign website at http://www.kidrockforsenate.com and is selling merchandise with the logo “KID ROCK FOR US SENATE.” He’s also promoting his candidacy on twitter, including a tweet that says: “Donate to the campaign.”
“Regardless of whether Kid Rock says he’s only exploring [a] candidacy, he’s selling ‘Kid Rock for Senate’ merchandise and is a candidate under the law,” Paul S. Ryan of Common Cause said in a statement. “This is campaign finance law 101.”
Kid Rock seems not even to understand the allegation against him.
“I am starting to see reports from the misinformed press and the fake news on how I am in violation of breaking (sic) campaign law,” he wrote on his website over the weekend. “#1 I have still not officially announced my candidacy. #2 See #1 and go fuck yourselves.”
Beyond the culture clash, there’s a serious issue at stake. Already, the FEC has given federal candidates lots of leeway to build a campaign infrastructure before formally announcing their candidacies, by saying that they’re just “testing the waters”. But if the agency decides not to take any action against Kid Rock, it would open the door for future candidates to go even further in that direction, potentially allowing them to conduct key campaign activities without becoming subject to campaign finance law.
That would make it even easier to skirt laws aimed at regulating money in politics. And given the FEC’s recent dysfunction and inability to enforce campaign finance laws effectively, it seems like a real possibility.