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Texas GOP, Herrera Campaign “Under Review” by Federal Election Commission

Party’s Involvement in CD 23 Runoff Could Violate Federal Law

The Federal Election Commission has opened a “Matter Under Review” involving allegations that the Republican Party of Texas and the campaign of unsuccessful Congressional candidate Brandon Herrera potentially violated federal campaign finance law, The Texas Voice has learned. 

Last month, The Texas Voice reported that the campaign of Brandon Herrera, who waged an unsuccessful primary challenge against Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales in Congressional District 23, donated $100,000 to the Republican Party of Texas. The Party, in turn, began sending mailers to Republican voters in Gonzales’ district supporting Herrera and opposing Gonzales. According to a Republican campaign finance expert, these mailers exceeded the $5,000 limit on in-kind contributions that the Republican Party of Texas was permitted to make to the Herrera campaign. 

According to the Federal Election Commission, “an expenditure made by any person or entity in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate’s campaign is also considered an in-kind contribution to the candidate.”

The most recent campaign finance report filed by the Republican Party of Texas with the Federal Election Commission, which covers the month of April, reflected expenditures for “party-exempt activity,” which are believed to be related to the mailers sent by the Party in connection with the Congressional District 23 runoff between Gonzales and Herrera. However, the mailers sent by the Party supporting Herrera or opposing Gonzales do not appear to qualify as exempt activity under federal law. 

In a guide to exempt party activities published by the Federal Election Commission, the Commission states that campaign materials distributed through direct mail generally do not qualify as exempt activity. While there is an exception to slate cards or sample ballots distributed by direct mail, the slate card or sample ballot must include the names of at least three candidates. The mailers sent by the Republican Party of Texas were limited to the Congressional District 23 runoff. 

One of the expenditures made by the Republican Party of Texas for “party exempt activity” was a $10,330 expenditure to Axiom Strategies on April 27, 2024. Axiom Strategies is a prominent political consulting firm with affiliated entities that performed services for Herrera’s campaign. Many of the mailers sent by the Republican Party of Texas in the Congressional District 23 runoff were sent during the month of May and have yet to be reported on campaign finance reports. 

In addition to the allegations regarding in-kind contributions of mailers that exceeded federal limits, the Herrera campaign also faces allegations that it failed to report donor information on its campaign finance reports. 

On his pre-runoff report filed by the Federal Election Commission, Herrera reported a $550 donation and a $1,000 donation from “anonymous.” Federal candidates must report the name, address, and employer of donors who contribute more than $200 to their campaign. 

Last week, Herrera announced that he would request a recount in his race. In a tweet regarding the recount, Herrera said, “Just to repeat so everyone is clear on the recount: Yes we are doing a recount. No I don’t expect it to change the outcome. I’ve accepted the results, however I felt we owed it to the voters and supporters all asking for one just to ensure all i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.”

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