DCCC picking primary winners in advance?

We’re barely into the thick of primary season, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is already running into a potentially serious problem which will summon up ghosts of elections past. The Free Beacon is reporting that a government ethics group has filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging that DCCC leadership has been putting their thumb on the scales in favor of some of their primary candidates while shutting out others.

The case in question focuses on Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, where Jason Crow was battling David Aarestad for the party’s nomination. A leaked recording of a phone conversation seems to indicate the Steny Hoyer admitted to helping out Crow while withholding resources from Aarestad, noting that the party thought Crow had the better chance of winning the closely contested seat in November.

A government ethics watchdog Tuesday filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission after audio from a secretly recorded conversation implied the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tipped the scales in favor of their preferred candidate, and may have violated campaign finance laws in the process.

The secret recording of a conversation between House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Levi Tillemann, a Democrat candidate for the 6th Congressional District in Colorado, was made last December. The audio became public after the Intercept published it in April with Tillemann’s consent after some names and private information were edited out.

Hoyer makes plain to Tillemann in the recording that some higher-ups in the Democratic party preferred Army veteran and corporate lawyer Jason Crow be the party’s nominee in the district.

The Intercept’s story on the audio included a quote from David Aarestad, who by that time had dropped out of the same race.

Assuming the recording is verified (Hoyer has no comment on it so far), the DCCC wasn’t being particularly subtle. Hoyer is quoted as saying, “I am for Crow because a judgment was made very early on. I didn’t know Crow. I didn’t participate in the decision. But a decision was made early on by the Colorado delegation.” When asked if that means the DCCC knows better than the voters of the district, Hoyer is heard responding, “That’s certainly a consequence of our decision.”

This allegedly went beyond simply lending moral support, though. Aarestad alleges that the DCCC made valuable resources including polling information and donor email lists available to Crow but withheld them from him. If so, that’s being described as an in-kind campaign contribution with an estimated value far in excess of allowable limits. Rather than mere bad optics, this is the sort of charge that can land somebody in front of a judge.

What’s really amazing about this story is the bloody-minded ignorance of recent history. During the Democrats’ ill-fated 2016 primary, the DNC was caught playing favorites for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders and it completely blew up in their faces. No matter which candidate you may favor, your voters aren’t going to be wild about the idea of the party leadership picking winners and losers before the voters even have a chance to weigh in on the subject. If they don’t want another epidemic of Berniecrats breaking out this season they need to clean this mess up quickly.