Indiana Democrats: Braun 'stole' Senate seat using illegal loans

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Braun's 2018 Senate campaign took more than $8.5 million in 'apparent prohibited loans,' a recent Federal Election Commission audit found.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) relied on millions of dollars in seemingly illegal loans for his 2018 campaign, according to an audit released by the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.

Braun may have violated federal law by taking in more than $8.5 million in illegal campaign contributions, the audit found.

In 2018, Braun unseated incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) by a 50.7%-44.8% margin — less than 135,000 votes out of nearly 2.3 million votes cast. Braun's campaign reported spending $18,358,687 on the race — outspending Donnelly's campaign by about $1.26 million.

The Federal Election Commission found Braun's 2018 campaign may have violated multiple campaign finance laws, including reporting errors and illegal loans, the Daily Beast reported on Wednesday.

Most notably, the auditors said Braun's campaign received $8,549,405 in "apparent prohibited loans," including $1.5 million in what looked like illegal corporate loans from his own transportation company. Corporations are not permitted to directly fund federal campaigns.

Indiana Democrats called on state and federal agents to investigate Braun's campaign finances and argued that the ill-gotten funds "made his campaign much more competitive."

"It's clear from the reporting that came out this morning that Mike Braun broke the law and stole a United States Senate seat in 2018," Indiana Democratic Party Chair Mike Schmuhl said in a press release on Thursday. "Today, Hoosiers need to ask themselves a sobering question: Do we have an illegitimately elected U.S. senator?"

Schmuhl called for "all jurisdictions to investigate potential criminality related to Braun’s campaign, businesses, or personal finances," including the U.S. Department of Justice, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana, and the Indiana Attorney General's Office.

A spokesperson for Braun did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story, but his campaign told the Daily Beast that it had done nothing wrong and that the money received from his company was really just misreported stock sales.

In October, President Joe Biden nominated Donnelly to be Ambassador to the Holy See in Vatican City. Braun has raised about $1.5 million so far for his 2024 re-election race.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.