by Brian Slodyskio | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A hero soldier-turned-Republican congressional candidate, Alec Scarlatos, started a nonprofit soon after his 2020 defeat in western Oregon, pledging to advocate for veterans “high and dry” by the country they’ve lived their lives. Put it on the line.” “
The group, which Scarlatos seeded with $93,000 in campaign funds remaining, has done little since then to advance that cause.
What it has nurtured, however, are the political ambitions of the Scarlatos, who provide $65,000, records show, to his 2022 bid for a rematch with longtime Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio from the college town of Corvallis to the Oregon coast. is spread. This is a seat that Republicans are targeting in their quest to win back the House.
Campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from self-treating and accepting illicit funds from the often opaque and less regulated world of political nonprofits. Legal experts say this includes a ban on candidates donating campaign cash to non-profit groups, as well as a broader ban on accepting contributions from such groups.
But years of lax campaign finance law enforcement have fostered an environment where many candidates are willing to challenge long-established legal limits.
“You can’t do that,” said Adav Noti, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who now works for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington. “There is a serious potential for corruption. The law considers it.”
Scarlatos’ campaign did not make him available for an interview, did not address the nonprofit’s activities and did not say whether Scarlatos currently holds a role with the group. Campaign manager Ross Purgason said the transactions were “completely legal”.
“Despite an attempt to discredit Alec Scarlatos, who served in Afghanistan, he was never paid a dollar,” Pargasan said.
In 2015, a member of the Oregon National Guard, Scarlottos gained a measure of fame when he helped deter an attack on a train bound for Paris by a heavily armed man who was an Islamic State follower. Hailed as a hero, he appeared in “Dancing with the Stars”, visited the White House and was granted dual French citizenship. This led to Clint Eastwood playing himself in the film “15:17 to Paris”.
Once he turned to politics, his biography served as the cornerstone of his campaign against House Transport Committee Chairman DeFazio, who defeated Scarlatos by five percentage points in November 2020.
He started the nonprofit a month after his loss, naming it the 15:17 Trust – a reference to the train attack. It was registered in Virginia, with their campaign treasurer also serving as the group’s treasurer, records show.
“Our service men and women are special people — heroes — who have put their lives on the line for us, and we owe it to them to make sure,” Scarlatos said in a March 2021 fundraising email. . “That is why I am proud to announce that I am officially launching the 15:17 Trust, a new 501(c)4 nonprofit organization dedicated to advocacy and support on behalf of our veterans. dedicated to.”
But the group has certainly had a low profile. It has an active online fundraising page, but its website is offline. A Facebook page is “liked” by only nine people. Its Twitter account has zero followers and only one tweet since April, seeking input for a survey on veterans’ concerns. A search of the media database shows no examples of the group being mentioned in the news.
Federal candidates and officeholders are allowed to donate campaign funds to non-profit groups. But they are forbidden from donating to nonprofits they control. Skarlatos’ campaign account gave $93,000 to his 15:17 fund in February.
The law is intended to prevent candidates from banning personal use of campaign funds by sending money to a different group that they can then use to collect salaries or payments.
Separately, federal campaigns face strict limits on how much and who can give them. This includes restrictions on accepting donations from corporations, including nonprofits, which can accept an unlimited amount of money from anonymous donors.
Although Scarlatos’ transfer of $65,000 to his campaign from the nonprofit was listed as a “refund” in the filing, it likely doesn’t square with the law, former FEC attorney Noti said.
“You can’t, months later, send a different amount to a campaign from a nonprofit and say it was a refund for a larger amount that was transferred a long time ago,” he said.
Scarlatos has collected payments from his campaign in the past.
During the 2020 campaign, Scarlatos listed himself as “contractor campaign staff” and paid more than $43,000 in mileage reimbursement, rent and expenses, records show.
In the two months since starting its 2022 GOP primary bid — the only period of time so far reflected in the quarterly filings it submitted — it has collected another $2,521 in mileage reimbursements.
Scarlatos’ essential congressional financial disclosures reflect the declining stream of personal income in recent years.
He reported making $40,000 from speaking fees, advertising and residuals from his film work in 2018. But his most recent filing, submitted in May 2020, shows that fell to $20,000, which he collected somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000 in rent. He has property. (The Congressional disclosure details dollar values in categories, not specific figures.)
It is unclear whether Scarlattos took a salary from his nonprofit, although his campaign says he did not. That’s because the group, which is not listed in the IRS database of tax-exempt groups, has not yet released the mandatory financial data that all nonprofits are required to make public. The disclosure should not be filed with the IRS until the following year.