In what has been billed as probably the closest congressional contest in Maryland, the race between incumbent District 6 Rep. John Delaney (D) and his Republican challenger, Amie Hoeber is heating up.
Delaney filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 21, alleging that Hoeber’s campaign violated FEC rules because her husband, Mark Epstein, donated to the super PAC Maryland USA.
Epstein, the senior vice president of Qualcomm, has been the primary funder of Maryland USA, donating $4.2 million to the super PAC going back to October 2015. While FEC rules allow super PACs to accept unlimited contributions from donors, it prohibits them from coordinating directly with candidates or their campaigns. Epstein said that although he donates regularly to Maryland USA, he has no role in the super PAC.
“A super PAC was established, and they solicited a lot of people including me saying please donate to us to help Amie’s campaign, so I donated to them,” he said Sunday before a candidate forum at B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville.
Hoeber, a Potomac resident and member of Congregation B’nai Tzedek, said she is certain she will be exonerated by the FEC and that an attorney has “vetted all of their campaign processes” without finding any wrongdoing.
“Anybody can contribute to any super PAC,” she said. “There are lots of super PACs that are formed by family members of candidates.”
The Maryland USA website states that it is “not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee,” but it also features pro-Hoeber literature and three television campaign ads supporting her candidacy.
The homepage also features a headshot of Hoeber that is identical to the one used on her campaign website.
Delaney, speaking after the forum, said his campaign had known all along about the super PAC but decided to take action last week after the ads aired.
“We didn’t think it was our business to do anything until it was actually directed against us, which it was,” Delaney said of the super PAC’s activity.
Delaney called Epstein’s assertion that he has no involvement in the super PAC “preposterous.”
“If you look at the overlaps … he was an officer of her campaign. He goes to an event with her. He answers questions for her. They live together. I mean this is kind of brazen to say the least. Being an officer on both sides? How could you not be coordinating if you’re an officer of the campaign and the sole funder of the Super PAC.”
Delaney, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, said he hopes the FEC takes action, but realizes the commission may not because it is “gridlocked.” Otherwise he said he plans to follow through with a multimillion-dollar damage claim that he hopes will gain national attention.
“Violations of the law are always concerning,” he said. “The fact that it’s in the millions of dollars justifies me pursuing the legal action, which costs money. I’ll pursue this for years, ultimately get a direct cause of action against them, and I think this can be a groundbreaking case where people in the future talk about Delaney vs. Epstein as a “standard for how super PACs can act.”