CREW files complaint over Alvin Greene
Updated: 7:05 p.m.
By Garance Franke-Ruta and R. Jeffrey Smith
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleged Tuesday that South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Alvin M. Greene violated election laws by failing to file campaign finance and other required reports. The group also called on the state's attorney general to investigate whether Greene improperly received financial help to induce him to run for office.
In addition, CREW filed formal complaints with the Federal Election Commission against three other South Carolina Democrats: Gregory Brown and Benjamin Frasier Jr. -- who ran campaigns in which House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) has said something was "amiss" -- and Brian L. Doyle.
Doyle, a syndicated radio talk show host and convicted felon, ran in South Carolina's 3rd District. In January, Doyle filed a $1 million lawsuit against the state Democrats, alleging they were unfairly seeking to keep him off the ballot.
Doyle's bid for office failed, and Brown lost to the nine-term incumbent Clyburn in the state's 6th District. But Frasier, a perennial candidate in the state, won his 1st District primary contest. All failed to properly file forms with the FEC, the ethics group said.
Greene has denied wrongdoing and rejected the suggestion that he is a GOP "plant" whose candidacy was intended to embarrass the Democratic Party.
The complaints add to the political ruckus following Greene's surprise victory in the primary race to become the Democrat against incumbent Republican Sen. Jim DeMint in November. Greene, 32, is an unemployed veteran, lives with his ill father, failed to campaign for office, and has an appointed public defender in a pending obscenity case involving a female college student -- circumstances that have sown mystery about the reasons for his candidacy.
"The limited facts available regarding Mr. Greene's candidacy for the United States Senate strongly suggest criminal misconduct," said Melanie Sloan, the CREW's executive director, in a letter to South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster. "Paying candidates to run for office and concealing sources of campaign funds undermines the integrity of the electoral process and threatens our democracy," she added in a statement.
The group's complaint demands sanctions against Greene, who it said had spent enough money -- $10,400 -- on his filing fee in South Carolina to meet a threshold requiring federal quarterly reports be filed. Green paid the fee with a blank bank check with "Alvin M. Greene for U.S. Senate" handwritten across the top.
Mary Brandenberger, a spokeswoman for the commission, confirmed that Greene did not file the quarterly reports, but she said that state filing fee payments are typically not counted toward the federal threshold.
Sloan also noted that South Carolina law prohibits accepting funds, loans or anything else of value as an inducement to run for political office. Greene has told reporters that the March 16 registration payment came from his own funds and that he was unaware of any federal reporting requirements since he did not campaign. He was assigned a public defender in the obscenity case late last year, which usually follows the filing of a petition claiming indigency.
Mark Plowden, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, told the Associated Press that McMaster would ask state police to investigate Greene if evidence were presented that someone other than Greene had paid the filing fee.
"No one has provided this office with any credible allegation or information suggesting criminal wrongdoing," Plowden said.
On Monday, Greene's vanquished opponent, Vic Rawl, a former state lawmaker, asked the state's Democratic Party leadership to overturn the outcome and order a new primary, but the state's election commission had already certified the results. A committee of the state Democratic Party will hold a hearing on Rawl's protest Thursday in Columbia.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said he, too, had questions about Greene and supported Democratic calls for an investigation into his win and filing fee payment.
"If people believe the system is compromised -- I have a lot of respect for Congressman Clyburn -- if he believes it was compromised, yes, I'd call for an investigation," Graham told Politico.
June 15, 2010; 4:57 PM ET
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