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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, March 2, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesPlaskett, Malone File Separate FEC Complaints

Plaskett, Malone File Separate FEC Complaints

After her two Democratic opponents filed separate complaints to the Federal Elections Commission, delegate to Congress candidate Stacey Plaskett is going public with some allegations of her own against candidate Shawn-Michael Malone.

Delegate candidate Emmett Hansen II recently filed an FEC complaint after it was discovered that a webpage for Plaskett’s campaign appeared to be crossed with the email alerts section on Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s current website. Hansen’s complaint alleges that Plaskett knowingly violated federal elections laws, but the company handling her website, N2Innovations, took full responsibility for the error.

“Based on our experience within the territory, we were contacted by the Plaskett for Congress Campaign and asked to assist them with the email marketing efforts for their campaign and we agreed to do so,” according to a recent statement from the company. “During the development of the first Plaskett for Congress blast email, a design associate worked off of an older USVI blast email template which unknowingly had an erroneous embedded link to the Governor’s website within it. As soon as the error was discovered and we were informed, we immediately corrected the problem.”

Government House also issued a statement saying that they were looking into the situation and denied any link to the Plaskett campaign. Malone, however, soon followed suit with his own complaint to the FEC and the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel, saying that a web-blast was also sent to “thousands of government employees at their official government addresses,” which he claims Plaskett would not have otherwise had access to.

“The sharing of names collected by the official government database is in direct violation of an individual’s privacy and is also in direct violation of the privacy policy prominently displayed and described on the governor’s official website,” according to Malone’s complaint.

Plaskett has fired back twice since Malone’s complaint was filed last week, saying that her opponents were looking to divert the public’s attention with “frivolous” filings.

On Wednesday, Plaskett also announced her intention to file her own FEC complaint alleging that Malone had “inappropriately” used government funds to boost his own delegate to Congress campaign.

“Some of the uses we found very troubling and knew that it could lead to the federal government reviewing larger pracices,” Plaskett said in a statement Wednesday, which also said that she had intended to file her complaint after the Aug. 2 primary.

“Our campaign was trying to hold off until after the election so the voters could focus on the issues,” Plaskett said her in statement. With the announcement that my opponents had filed complaints and the realization that it was potentially opening the door to an investigation of abuse of government funds on federal campaigns, we wanted to ensure that any federal investigation had the information we had become aware of during this campaign season.”

Specifically Plaskett’s complaint alleges that Malone used Bureau of Corrections inmates to set up a tent and campaign paraphernalia during one of his events, that he had hired five staff members for his office at the Legislature to help with campaign matters, and that he had retaliated at against at least one Senate employee for supporting Plaskett.

Speaking to the Source on Wednesday night, Malone said Plaskett’s allegations were unfounded.

“With regards to that last claim, I did not fire anybody that supported her campaign; I did not remove anyone from the Legislature for political reasons at all,” Malone said. “I also did not hire or solicit Bureau of Corrections personnel to do any events for me. Apparently, what happened that day, was the person we borrowed our tent from, when he was setting it up, maybe those individuals were in the area and he asked them to come and help set up. That’s all. For me to go do that – and anyone from the Bureau of Corrections can verify that because I did not request them – would be wrong.”

Malone added that his staff is also set at his Senate offices on both islands and no additional personnel was hired to help with the campaign. “I already have my staff,” he said, “and my running for delegate to Congress is not the reason that any of them were hired. It is a frivolous complaint and the claims are unfounded.”

The controversy between Hansen, Malone and Plaskett is not the first for the election season. The Source has previously written about the back and forth between the Elections System and gubernatorial candidate Soraya Diase Coffelt, who has been waging her battle in court for the past month, but was dealt a blow earlier this month after the V.I. District Court upheld an Elections System ruling that disqualified her from the race. In early June, Diase Coffelt switched her running mate from Warren Mosler to Republican John Canegata, who Elections officials contested could not appear on the same ticket as the independent.

Diase Coffelt challenged the ruling in federal court and was at first granted a temporary restraining order until District Court Judge Wilma Lewis considered whether to grant a permanent injunction. In the meantime, Elections printed sample ballots that did not include the names of the mixed-party team, and officials recently said – after Lewis issued a ruling upholding the Elections System’s decision to disqualify Diase Coffelt and Canegata – that they would not include their names on the ballot for the General Election. Diase Coffelt is taking the case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gubernatorial candidate Moleto Smith also filed his own challenge against Basil Ottley Jr., who is running for lieutenant governor with running mate Donna Christensen. Candidates for lieutenant governor have to be bona fide residents of the territory, which means, among other things, primarily living in and being an eligible voter in the territory five years preceding an election. And Smith has claimed that Ottley was working for the Department of the Interior and living on the mainland during that time.

The Ottley/Christensen camp has refuted the claims, saying that Ottley not only meets the Organic Act’s residency requirements but has also voted in the territory in a local primary or general election every election year since 2008.

Speaking to the Source this week, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes explained that her office must do a thorough background check on the candidates before certifying them. Claims that Ottley voted for Barack Obama during a recent presidential election were not found to be valid and any additional challenges could be taken up with the courts, Fawkes said.

“If it is something with him voting in the states, then it does not matter, as in this case, whether the deadline to file complaints with our office has passed,” Fawkes added. “If he did, then he would be disqualified, but I did those background checks – it is what I have to do. This is a big issue, voting in the states, but we call and verify with other offices, get statements and make sure we thoroughly vet each candidate. If they want to challenge anything else, they can go to court and present additional facts there.”

Speaking about the large number of complaints and challenges that have been brought up while preparing for this election, Fawkes said her office has noticed the increase. Along with a case against Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen – filed by St. Croix Board of Elections member Adelbert Bryan – that is still pending, Elections has had to deal with everything from residency complaints filed early in the season – that have already been dismissed – to the newer challenge about candidates’ nicknames appearing on the ballot.

While Fawkes said the increase in complaints could be attributed to any variety of factors, it is still the responsibility of Elections to look into them. With the primary coming up in August and November’s General Election to follow, just dealing with the challenges puts added work on the staff and keeps the office from doing some of the things they were hoping to do.

“It has been more politically charged,” Fawkes said, adding that “some of that could be because some candidates are more in tuned to what is going on. Some are testing the system. Some are testing the candidates. Whatever it is, it is our responsibility to follow the law and address what we need to.”

“Dealing with a case, though, there is a lot of preparation involved. We have to do research, compile our documents, and at the same time, deal with everything else that is coming into the office and so these things do some times detract from our everyday activities, things that could maybe put us in a better position if we were not handling the extra work,” she said.

Fawkes added that Elections has been looking at automating the voter registration process and even updating the identification cards so they look more like drivers licenses. That work has had to be pushed back until at least after the primary so the different candidate challenges, and other Elections matters, could be settled, she said.

“But at the end of the day, the goal here is to conduct a fair and transparent and by-the-law election, and that is exactly what we are going to do, no matter what,” Fawkes said.

Editor’s Note: The Smith Campaign contacted the Source to say they are concerned with bona fide residence, not specifically voting registration. While the story merely recounted the qualifications for candidacy rather than the details of Smith’s concerns, the Source wishes that distinction to be clear and it has been updated to clarify the distinction.

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