Democrats May Sue Alexander
Furious House Democratic leaders are considering filing a lawsuit against party switcher Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) for failing to return more than $70,000 in Member contributions to his re-election campaign.
Top Democrats have been in discussions for several weeks about whether to sue Alexander — who switched to the GOP on Louisiana’s Aug. 6 filing deadline — for fraud if the freshman Member fails to return their money soon. One Democratic leadership aide said Democratic lawmakers will go to court “in days not weeks” if Alexander continues to drag his feet in returning their money.
“At some point, if he doesn’t give the money back — and it’s not been received and been asked for — some of us are talking about a lawsuit for fraud,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who gave Alexander $6,000 this cycle.
A well-placed Democratic staffer, privy to leadership talks about a potential lawsuit, said: “Members in leadership believe he committed fraud and believe we have legal standing to bring a suit.” The aide said it remains unclear who would file the lawsuit and in which court.
Alexander told several news organizations shortly after his switch that he would return funds to the Democratic Members who contributed to his campaign.
His chief of staff, Royal Alexander (no relation), said Wednesday his boss will hold to his word but is delayed in sending out checks because he is assembling new D.C. and campaign staff, including a bookkeeper to process the requests for refunds.
A good share of Alexander’s staff quit immediately after he switched parties.
“We are in a transition period,” Royal Alexander said. “Honestly, it would be a burden off us to get that done. He fully intends to do it.”
As for talk of legal action against his boss for fraud, Royal Alexander urged Democratic leaders to rethink those plans. He noted that the party already sought and failed to keep Alexander off the ballot, and hoped another lawsuit wouldn’t be in the works.
“We hope they would not do that,” Alexander said. “We just finished a lawsuit with them. Hopefully, they wouldn’t undertake another one.”
While dozens of Democrats who gave money to Alexander this cycle say they are still waiting, at least one has already received a refund. Rep. Mike Ross (Ark.), a one-time Alexander ally who served in the conservative Blue Dog Democrat Coalition with him, said he asked Alexander both in writing and personally for the contributions back.
Royal Alexander couldn’t say why Ross received a check while other Members have not, noting that there may be one or two other Members who also received a refund. Ross received his check on Monday.
“I didn’t come here to serve in the minority,” Ross said. “I didn’t come here to vote for a Republican agenda. I made a request in writing and verbally and received the money back yesterday.”
But Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), another Blue Dog member, said he has received “nothing” yet from his former Democratic colleague. Several other Blue Dogs also contributed to Alexander, but those funds have yet to be returned, Democratic sources said.
“I think he should write checks back to the Members who helped him out,” Hill said.
While many Members are quietly waiting for their refunds, several others have sent formal requests to Alexander for their contributions, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Menendez. Several other prominent Democrats also penned letters, including Rep. John Lewis (Ga.).
Royal Alexander said those wanting checks should ask for them in writing to ensure they are processed through the campaign. No one who asks will be denied, he assured.
Hoyer, in a letter to Alexander last week, asked him for $35,000, the total of all of the Whip’s individual and political action committee contributions dating back to 2002, when Alexander first ran for office, as well as those contributions Hoyer solicited on behalf of Alexander from other Democrats. Pelosi, in the meantime, penned a letter earlier this week asking for the $12,000 her committees have contributed to Alexander this cycle.
Matsui, who gave Alexander $1,000 this cycle, said he and other contributing Members have already waited too long for their money. He said Alexander promised the money would be returned quickly, and he’s failing to deliver on that vow.
“If he were honest, he would have sent the checks already,” Matsui said. “It’s pretty easy to see who gave and he did say he would refund the contributions. I am stunned he hasn’t.”
Matsui said even those Members who didn’t ask Alexander directly for the money should get it back, adding that those contributions are “precious” to other needy Democratic candidates at this stage in the cycle.
Menendez echoed those sentiments, saying there’s no reason why it’s taken four weeks to receive his money.
“People want their money back,” he said. “We’re not in the business of electing Republicans. As easy as it was to give a check, he can just as easily return a check.”
Alexander’s abrupt party switch shocked Democratic lawmakers, who called him a “traitor” and a “turncoat” who betrayed them without notice. Alexander filed as a Republican just minutes before the filing deadline on Aug. 6, just days after first filing as a Democrat.
The conservative Louisiana lawmaker said he was confused while serving as a Democrat and felt he was constantly defending his votes to the party leadership. Alexander had entertained a switch earlier this year, but changed his mind.
While Members remain disappointed by Alexander’s move, Georgia Democrat Lewis said he’s equally as disappointed his former Democratic colleague is taking his time returning Member donations.
“I contributed those resources in good faith and in a timely manner, he should return those resources in a timely manner,” Lewis said. “We did not make those contributions available to support his efforts to win as a Republican.”