Press Releases

End Citizens United Files FEC Complaint Against Senator Joni Ernst

May 01, 2020

Complaint states that Ernst failed to report payments of campaign staffers, which is required by law 

Ernst began hiding names of staffers around the time she began working with the dark money group Iowa Values

End Citizens United (ECU) filed a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaint against Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA). The complaint alleges that Senator Ernst did not report the names of staffers on payroll for her re-election campaign, which is required by law and clearly laid out on the FEC website. Ernst’s campaign has repeatedly come under fire and began shielding names of campaign staffers around the time she began working with Iowa Values, a dark money group formed by the Senator’s top political aides to help with her own re-election. Click here to read the complaint.

“This is a troubling pattern of behavior by Senator Ernst, and Iowans should know what she’s hiding,” said End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller. “We understand that she’s facing the toughest election of her career, but that’s not grounds for breaking the rules and keeping Iowans in the dark about her campaign. The FEC should investigate the violation to determine what dealings Ernst was trying to conceal.”

The Violation:
Senator Ernst and the Committee ignored fundamental FEC disclosure requirements in order to hide the Committee’s list of employees from the general public by disclosing only a disbursement to a payroll vendor on its FEC reports and failing to itemize the actual campaign staffers receiving salary payments through the payroll vendor. Senator Ernst and her Committee have already been subject to allegations this cycle that they engaged in illegal coordination with Iowa Values, a 501(c)(4) dark money organization, related to an overlap in personnel between Senator Ernst’s campaign organizations and the dark money organization. This blatant disregard for required disclosure raises serious concerns that the Committee is hiding its list of staffers in order to cover up violations of the coordination rules set forth in the Federal Election Campaign Act (the “Act”) and Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) regulations.

In December of 2019, after an Associated Press investigation revealed that Ernst was caught illegally working with Iowa Values to boost her re-election campaign, The American Democracy Legal Fund and Campaign for Accountability sent letters urging the FEC to investigate the alleged coordination. In February of this year, ECU filed an IRS complaint stating that Iowa Values falsely registered as a social welfare nonprofit to solely exist to re-elect the Senator instead of promoting any social welfare.

poll of Iowa voters, commissioned by End Citizens United (ECU) and conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in December of 2019, showed that after Iowa voters learned about the AP investigation, Ernst lost support and dropped to just 40 percent, while Democrat Theresa Greenfield rose to 45 percent. The poll also found that 53 percent of Iowans believe politicians promote policies to help their corporate special interest donors most of the time.

ECU endorsed Theresa Greenfield in July 2019 because of her commitment to reform and making Washington work for Iowans. Greenfield, who rejects corporate PAC money, is running a grassroots campaign powered by small-dollar donors. In her first major policy announcement, Greenfield released a bold and comprehensive plan to end political corruption by getting big money out of politics and passing legislation that will ban dark money and corporate PAC money.