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Politics & Government

McCormick makes Senate campaign official after Democrats ask for investigation

Election 2022 Senate Pennsylvania David McCormick
Andre Penner
US Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs David McCormick speaks during a news conference at the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Sao Paulo, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008. McCormick joins the Republican field of possible candidates aiming to capture Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat in next year's election.

Republican David McCormick officially filed paperwork identifying himself as a U.S. Senate candidate Wednesday — after spending millions on TV ads and after state Democrats filed a complaint against him for doing so without registering sooner.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Party last week asked federal election officials to investigate McCormick, who they allege spent more than $2 million on ads, according to data from AdImpact.

The Federal Election Commission states that individuals should register as candidates when they spend more than $5,000.

Usually, candidates who are “testing the waters” to determine whether they should run for office are exempt from registering. But the complaint says that the testing-the-waters exception should not apply to McCormick, because of the large sums that McCormick's exploratory committee spent on ads.

The AdImpact analysis included in the complaint shows $595,923 in ad spending in the Pittsburgh region alone. And while the complaint notes that the ads were careful to avoid calling McCormick a Senate candidate, it notes that they do a lot of the same work that political ads do: “touting his business accomplishments, military record, and dedication to Pennsylvania.”

At one point, for example, McCormick asserts "This is a battle for the heart and soul of America," though he doesn't identify what "this" is.

“Television advertisements by their very nature have no legitimate exploratory purpose," the complaint argues. "The point of a TV advertisement, like any other form of general public advertising, is to increase a candidate’s name recognition and appeal. Mr. McCormick’s advertisements are designed to do precisely that.”

McCormick’s exploratory committee could not be reached for comment. But his filing, dated Jan.12, identifies him as a Senate candidate running a campaign whose mailing address is a Downtown Pittsburgh post-office box.

In response to the filing, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania's Democratic Party said McCormick's official entrance would only make the race "nastier."

"This field of well funded but flawed candidates is going to ensure this race is an expensive and messy fight to the right," said spokesperson Jack Doyle. "Whoever limps out of it will be significantly damaged and deeply out of step with the Pennsylvania voters that decide the general election.”

In January, McCormick stepped down from his job as CEO of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, to explore a run for Senate. McCormick served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs beginning in August 2007 under the Bush administration.

If the FEC does find that McCormick violated federal law, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party asked that the commission penalize him with a fine.

Updated: January 12, 2022 at 6:20 PM EST
This story was updated to include new information about McCormick's filing status, as well as comments from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.