Bongino Accuses Sobhani of Campaign Ethics Violation
The Republican candidate for Maryland's Senate says the Independent made unattributed robocalls disparaging him.
UPDATE: (5:22 p.m.)—The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Maryland is accusing the Independent of violating federal election law by sending out robocalls on Sunday night that didn't include a campaign disclaimer.
The call, which was uploaded to Youtube by a staffer for Republican Dan Bongino, states that Rob Sobhani supports making English the country's official language. Bongino said this claim was false.
Also, the caller claims Sobhani is the real conservative alternative to incumbent Democract Sen. Ben Cardin, another claim that Bongino disputes.
"That's not only unethical, that's a clear criminal offense," Bongino said. "Unfortunately, you have the right to be dishonest in politics, but you don't have the right to be dishonest anonymously."
Under Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations, all of a candidate's official communications—including automated phone calls—must include a disclaimer indicating that it was paid for by the campaign.
Most violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) result in civil penalties. If a campaign or persons are shown to knowingly and willfully violate certain FECA provisions, it can lead to imprisonment, according to the FEC website.
Sobhani's spokesman Sam Patten said that the campaign did pay for the calls, but the recording included an authority line.
Patten emailed Patch a copy of the audio file, which he said came from the campaign's contractor. It features the same female voice for the add but includes an authority line read by a male at the end of the message.
"The audio file from Dan Bongino's campaign must have been either intentionally or accidentally clipped," Patten said. "What I would point out there has been a pattern of very negative accusations and smears coming from this campaign towards Rob Sobhani."
Sobhani briefly tied Bongino in the polls this September with both men garnering about 20 percent of the vote. In recent weeks, Sobhani's numbers have dropped to about 14 percent as Bongino's have risen to around 34 percent. Cardin, who most political analysts expect to win, has consistently hovered around the 50 percent mark.
Bongino said he believes the robocall was intentionally misleading in order to peel off a portion of the conservative vote.
"Ten to 15 percent of the electorate is still undecided in this race," Bongino said. "We're not in this for second place."
Bongino said his campaign intends to go forward with the FEC complaint regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's election.
"We were attacked by someone who broke the law," Bongino said. "What was done was an embarrassment to Maryland politics."
Patten said the Sobhani campaign isn't worried.