The campaign to protect Joe Biden from challenges for the Democrat nomination has begun.
The Campaign for Accountability, a left-wing watchdog group, filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
The complaint with the FEC claims that there has been coordinated communications between Phillips' campaign and Pass the Torch USA, the PAC formed by Republican strategist Steve Schmidt. Schmidt formed the PAC only weeks after leaving Phillips' campaign in an advisory role. It goes on to claim that evidence "strongly suggests" Schmidt made $450,000 in coordinated communications.
Michelle Kuppersmith, Campaign for Accountability executive director, stated:
"Candidates and their committees cannot coordinate strategy with super PACs. When the architect of the Phillip's campaign suddenly moves over to lead a super PAC supporting Phillip's candidacy the moment the ink on the blueprint is dry, the coordination is clear."
The group added:
"If the communications by Pass the Torch had been created, produced or distributed after substantial discussions between Schmidt and Phillips, it would constitute a prohibited coordinated communication."
After the complaint was filed, Phillips' campaign immediately responded, calling the allegations "baseless." A campaign spokesperson stated:
"The complaint is baseless and does not allege a single specific example of coordination.
"All it takes is one look at our paid TV ads to see how different the strategies of these two entities are. Regardless, we can say without question that the campaign has at all times complied with the law and has not engaged in any coordination with Pass the Torch, Steve Schmidt or any other party."
With Joe Biden struggling in the polls and Dean Phillips mounting a challenge, this was probably to be expected. I would also note that unless they have actual email exchanges between Phillips and Schmidt after Schmidt left his role as a campaign adviser, this allegation will be all but impossible to prove.
Phillips is a long-shot candidate, but the party wants to get him out of the way because his main point of attack against Biden is his age, something that Democrats have been trying to downplay from the outset. If they don't get Phillips with this attack, I fully expect something else to suddenly pop up in an effort to get Phillips out of this race as soon as possible.
This could start to get interesting after the early voting states if Phillips makes a dent in the delegate race and looks like a legitimate threat to Biden as the nominee. Democrat voters have made it very clear they want an alternative to Joe Biden in the election, and Phillips is giving it to them.