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Nevada’s MAGA Secretary of State Candidate Appears to Be Blatantly Ignoring Campaign Finance Law

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And getting away with it.

Even by the anything-goes standards of post-Citizens United America, the campaign finance practices of far-right Nevada secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant are comically reckless and almost certainly illegal, according to multiple complaints filed with the state.

In May, Marchant’s Republican primary opponent Jesse Haw submitted a complaint accusing him of “an inexcusable violation of Nevada law.” In August, the progressive group End Citizens United described Marchant’s actions as a “blatant violation” of state election law. Bradley Schrager, a Nevada election lawyer who serves as campaign counsel to Democratic secretary of state candidate Cisco Aguilar, calls them “brazenly unlawful.”

They are referring to Marchant’s creation of Conservatives for Election Integrity, a political action committee that promotes his own campaign. Unlike Nevada candidates, who can receive individual donations of up to $10,000, PACs in the state can accept unlimited contributions. But crucially, PACs are supposed to make so-called “independent expenditures,” which Nevada law defines as spending “made by a person who is not under the direction or control of a candidate for office.”

CEI, however, is obviously “under the direction or control of a candidate”: Marchant is the group’s president and only official. The email address for the PAC listed on the Nevada secretary of state’s website is [email protected] Marchant, it seems, is using his PAC to evade donation limits. As End Citizens United explained in an August complaint covered by the Nevada Independent, CEI donated the legal maximum of $10,000 to Marchant’s campaign. The PAC then violated campaign finance limits by spending “significant sums of money to create, produce, and broadcast advertisements expressly advocating the election of Mr. Marchant,” the complaint stated.

More than half of the $413,000 CEI raised through September came from The America Project, an election-denier group co-founded by former CEO Patrick Byrne, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and Flynn’s brother Joseph. In supporting Marchant, they are trying to secure victory for a QAnon-adjacent candidate who insists the 2020 election was rigged and who has vowed that Trump will return to power in 2024 if he and fellow members of his America First Secretary of State Coalition win in November. If Marchant prevails, he will responsible for overseeing Nevada elections and enforcing the campaign finance laws he is accused of ignoring.  

Politicians often set up PACs to back other people’s campaign. What’s strange and likely illegal is that Marchant’s PAC is largely—if not exclusively—an extension of his own campaign. As End Citizens United noted in its complaint, the PAC’s commercials have touted “Jim Marchant for Secretary of State” and claimed, “We need Jim Marchant…for Secretary of State.” As Haw put it in his May complaint, “there is no daylight between Marchant’s campaign and the CEI PAC—they are one and the same.” Schrager calls what Marchant is doing through his PAC the “most obvious case I’ve ever seen of a candidate simply not caring what campaign finance laws prohibit.”

Violating Nevada campaign contribution limits is a felony offense in Nevada. But it’s not clear that Nevada’s secretary of state, Republican Barbara Cegavske, is doing much to enforce the law. In May, two months before the primary, Haw asked Cegavske’s office to “expedite its consideration” of his complaint and “sanction Marchant appropriately without undue delay.” In late August, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office told the Nevada Independent it was about to wrap up its investigation of Haw’s complaint. The case does not appear to have led to trouble for Marchant. Meanwhile, End Citizens United still has not heard back about its complaint. (The Nevada secretary of state’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

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