FEC audit raises questions about Sen. Braun’s campaign finances

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An audit from the Federal Election Commission raises questions about Sen. Mike Braun’s (R-Indiana) campaign finances.

The draft report, which is not final, alleges numerous errors in funding reports as well as millions in prohibited loans during his 2018 Senate run.

The 57-page report from the FEC alleges more than $8.5 million in “apparent prohibited loans and lines of credit” were given to Sen. Braun’s Senate campaign.

That includes two checks totaling $1.5 million dollars from Meyer Distributing, a company Braun founded and ran before serving in the Senate.

Legal and political experts say that allegations could particularly be problematic.

“Corporations cannot give money to political candidates,” said Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, an attorney who also serves as editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. “That’s something that’s been on the law books for quite a while now.”

“The reason that law exists is so that politicians aren’t necessarily in the pockets, so to speak, of big business,” said Laura Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.

Joshua Kelley, Braun’s chief of staff and senior political advisor, said the campaign can prove that contribution and its other loans were legal, and he believes Braun will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

His team declined our request for an interview with Sen. Braun, but Kelley sent us a statement, which reads in part: “If you have read the documents that the campaign committee has since provided to the FEC or listened to the recent hearing with the FEC Commissioners, it is clear that the final version of the FEC’s audit report will conclude that all the loans fully complied with the law. Sometimes these FEC audits require time to work themselves out; that has been the case here, and we’re not the least bit concerned about how the process will end.”

The audit also alleges numerous inaccuracies in financial reports, including overstating receipts and disbursements by more than $6 million each. It also alleges improper reporting of hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.

In a filed response to the audit, the Braun campaign blames its former treasurer for the financial errors, saying it has not been able to locate the individual since the end of 2018.

In a phone call Thursday, a senior campaign official said it would be “completely false” to say they have not tried to reach the former staffer.

We’ve worked to contact the former treasurer of Braun’s campaign for comment but have not been able to reach him.

Meanwhile, Indiana Democrats have accused Braun of stealing his 2018 Senate win.

“I have been very, very strong in calling for every level, every jurisdiction to keep an eye on this issue because it does look like he cut corners,” said Mike Schmuhl, Indiana Democratic Party chair.

This audit is still in its early stages, and a final decision from the FEC has not been issued.

You can read the full report below:

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