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FEC Complaint Filed Against Kirkland

A Tennessee attorney has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission regarding an independent expenditure campaign supporting Tennessee House candidate Ron Kirkland (R) that is being run by Kirkland’s brother, Robert.

Attorney John Stevens revealed Wednesday that he had filed the complaint, claiming the expenditures should qualify as coordinated and thus exceed federal contribution limits. Roll Call first reported the independent expenditure spending by Robert Kirkland on Tuesday, noting that several campaign finance experts said the arrangement was not ordinary.

In the complaint, dated April 7, Stevens cited “the close familial tie between Kirkland and his brother” and Robert Kirkland’s “enthusiastic support” of his brother’s campaign in February as evidence that Robert is materially involved with the campaign.

The FEC is notoriously slow to investigate complaints, so it’s unlikely it will come to any resolution on the complaint during this cycle, but Kirkland or his brother could be fined afterward.

Stevens, who worked as a staffer for former Tennessee Gov. Donald Sundquist (R), said he was moved to file the complaint because news of the independent expenditures “didn’t pass the smell test.” He told Roll Call that he personally supports another candidate in the race but doesn’t have a role with the campaign.

He declined to say whom he is supporting.

Kirkland is in a competitive GOP primary against Shelby County Commissioner George Flinn and farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher, a favorite of national Republicans. The winner of the GOP primary will go on to face state Sen. Roy Herron (D) in the general election to succeed retiring Rep. John Tanner (D). The race is likely to be one of the hardest-fought of the cycle.

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