• Reports: DOJ looking into whether Tennessee senator illegally funneled money from campaign

    By: Leah Jordan

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Department of Justice is talking to Tennessee lawmakers – they’re asking questions about whether money was taken from Senator Brian Kelsey’s state accounts and placed into his congressional account, according to The Daily Memphian.  

    FOX13 spoke to University of Memphis Law professor Steve Mulroy about what exactly the allegations entail.


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    “In this case, the allegation is that Senator Kelsey got around the limit on moving money from his state campaign account to his federal campaign account by a series of straw donations,” Mulroy said. “In order for there to be a violation, there has to be what the law calls ‘coordination.’ Sort of a secret agreement, a ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge, I’ll send you money then you send money back.’ 

    “If there wasn’t that kind of coordination, there’s really nothing to see here. It’s not a violation of campaign finance law,” Mulroy said. 

    The Daily Memphian also reported that a complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission.

    The allegations are out there, so FOX13 wanted to get Kelsey’s side. 

    FOX13 asked for a sit-down interview via text, left a voicemail, and sent an email. His assistant said he was unavailable for an interview Wednesday, but she did send over a statement on his behalf: 

    “I am humbled that my congressional campaign received donations from roughly sixty of my colleagues, the overwhelming majority of whom never received a dime from Red State PAC or my reelection committee. Both before and after those contributions were made, Red State PAC and my reelection committee donated to conservative candidates based on independent criteria including whether the candidate had a competitive race or had demonstrated political courage and leadership. I welcome any investigation because all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel.”

    Mulroy said the fact that Kelsey welcomes an investigation is “good.”

    “The fact that he’s saying he welcomes an investigation, that’s good. It’s quite possible that there was no coordination. That’s the key thing. It could be that he donated money to third parties, and they, on their own, without any prior agreement, decided to send some money back to his campaign account,” Mulroy said. “They admire him, he admires them, it’s just a coincidence.

    "If that’s the case, there’s no violation.” 

    FOX13 will provide further updates as soon as they become available.

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