The campaigns of Republican 3rd District Representative Jim Banks and his Democratic challenger Courtney Tritch are sparring over whether Tritch committed a Federal Election Commission violation during a weekend fundraiser at the After Dark Nightclub in Fort Wayne.
In an emailed statement, Banks campaign manager Steve Justus shared a video posted to the After Dark Nightclub Facebook page showing what he says is Tritch “illegally accepting undocumented cash campaign donations while she dances on stage with a drag queen.”
"We are exploring FEC violations and looking at filing a complaint,” Justus said. “In the meantime, Ms. Tritch may want to consider apologizing for this charade to the northeastern Indiana families she’s campaigning to represent."
Tritch campaign manager David Myles denied any wrongdoing, saying the event followed FEC regulations. He added that Banks was demonstrating “clear homophobia” which Myles calls “disturbing.”
“In asking for an apology to the families of the 3rd District, he is stating that the LGBTQ community is excluded from his idea of family,” Myles said.
Under FEC guidelines, candidates can receive up to $50 that don’t need to be accounted for during a campaign. Political analyst Andy Downs says that gray area exists so paperwork doesn’t become burdensome on items like buttons or bumper stickers.
Downs says optically, it presents a challenge for Tritch.
“It doesn’t look good when people are handing you cash,” Downs says. “People start hearkening back to the bad old days, so to speak, of rampant campaign finance violations when they see people sort of handing over money.”
But as far as an actual violation, he says that’s in the eye of the beholder.
“What we have here is a classic example of something that is probably not an official violation of campaign finance law, but something that looks like it is or looks like it should be,” he said.
As for participating in the fundraiser at After Dark Nightclub itself, Downs calls it “campaign fodder,” noting the response at large will split down the middle.
“Not everyone is going to think the event was tasteful or something a member of Congress should be engaging in. Other people will think that it was perfectly fine,” he said.