The Alaska Republican Party is accusing Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller of breaking federal campaign finance law by using his for-profit news website, JoeMiller.us, as an extension of his campaign. But Miller says he has done nothing wrong.
The Republicans sent their complaint Monday to the Federal Election Commission, underscoring the rift between Miller and the party whose nomination he captured in 2010. In the GOP primary that year, Miller, riding a wave of tea party support, defeated Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent who this year is the Republican nominee.
She came back as a write-in candidate in the 2010 general election, beating both Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams. This year, she's been the subject of a stream of criticism from Miller that began as soon as he entered the race last month.
In Monday's complaint, Alaska GOP chair Tuckerman Babcock said that Miller began using JoeMiller.us, which lists three corporate sponsors, "almost solely as a campaign website" when he filed to run. Since candidates are barred from accepting corporate donations, Miller, by relying on his for-profit website and its links to social media accounts, accepted illegal campaign contributions, Babcock said.
The GOP complaint also accuses Miller of errors and omissions on his most recent federal campaign finance report. The report said Miller received $4,500 worth of brochures from the Alaska Republican Party — which Babcock says wasn't true — and it didn't appear to account for Miller's use of his Anchorage campaign headquarters on Northern Lights Boulevard.
At his own news conference Monday evening, Miller dismissed the charges, saying they were insignificant because he's allowed to make unlimited contributions to his own campaign — in effect, what he's doing through the use of the website he controls.
"We might make some mistakes. Nobody's perfect," Miller said. But, he added, "I feel pretty good that we're on solid ground."
Miller's political director, Matt Johnson, leveled the campaign's own charges against Murkowski's campaign — that the incumbent had transferred more than $100,000 to the Alaska Republican Party in a move that Johnson characterized as "highly unusual."
Asked about the brochures from the Republican Party, Miller said someone had dropped off boxes of old fliers that the Alaska GOP produced on his behalf in the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign — one of which accused Murkowski of "bailing out Wall Street" and "sending Alaskans the bill."
He said his payment for his campaign headquarters had, in fact, been accounted for on his campaign finance reports, though he refused to identify his landlord.
The Republican Party and Murkowski, Miller added, were using the attacks to distract voters from her record.
"They try to change the public focus away from the issues on to things that aren't true," he said.
Any resolution to the GOP complaint likely won't come before the Nov. 8 election, since the document was mailed Monday and the FEC gives subjects 15 days to respond to a properly filed complaint.