Yesterday I noted that Annette Bosworth is soliciting checks made out to the "Bosworth for US Senate Exploratory Committee." Bosworth can do this and take all the money she wants without filing papers with the Federal Election Commission, as long as she doesn't make or authorize statements that refer to herself as a candidate. (Refer to the FEC Congressional candidates' guide for a fuller explanation of the difference between "testing the waters" and campaigning.)
So what will the FEC make of this Facebook group declaring Bosworth a candidate?
Search "Annette Bosworth" in NSA domestic-spying subsidiary Facebook, and one of the results you get is "Dr. Annette Bosworth for Senate." Who would make such a declaration? Not Bosworth herself; she's been invited but hasn't found the Join button yet (rather like how she hasn't found the Messages section where she'd see the policy questions I've sent her to learn what she brings to the political table).
But Annette's husband Chad Haber is a member of the group. And the group admin is Samuel Fogas, who launched the online chatter about Bosworth's campaign with his transparently bogus online postings. Samuel Fogas works for Bosworth and Haber at their non-profit Preventive Health Strategies, of which Bosworth's private clinic, Meaningful Medicine LLC, appears to operate as a subsidiary or partner or... well, something. The two organizations operate from the same office. Meaningful Medicine incorporated Preventive Health Strategies in 2011. "Preventive Health Strategies" appears on the online and printed publicity materials for the clinic.
These facts add up to a couple of alarming potential violations of law. An employee of Annette Bosworth's non-profit organization is making statements that portray his boss as a candidate for Senate, even though the candidate is taking donations under the "exploratory" banner. That Facebook declaration of candidacy could require Bosworth to file with the FEC.
The involvement of her non-profit employee in such political activity also puts in peril Preventive Health Strategies' non-profit status. The IRS makes clear that 501(c)3 non-profit organizations cannot directly or indirectly participate in any campaign activity on behalf of a candidate. South Dakota law also makes clear that organizations in general cannot contribute to candidates. If a South Dakota corporation exceeds or abuses the authority extended to it by state law and its articles of incorporation, the attorney general can ask the court to dissolve the corporation. The articles of incorporation for Preventive Health Strategies say nothing about promoting candidates for Senate. Neither
If intern Fogas is spending any organization time or resources promoting Bosworth's political aspirations, or if he created the "Bosworth for Senate" Facebook group or any other online materials at the request of his boss at the non-profit office, the IRS can yank Haber and Bosworth's non-profit status, and the state of South Dakota can dissolve their corporations. It won't help Bosworth's case if she is parading around at political events wearing a lab coat or other regalia that identify her as a leader of that non-profit (or, for that matter, of her medical LLC, which state law would also prohibit from contributing to her campaign).
M. Michael Rounds's lawyer friends are probably ahead of me on this track. The chances that they'll ask for an investigation of either FEC or non-profit violations are probably equal to the chances that Bosworth could beat Rounds in the GOP primary. But given Bosworth and Haber's crusade against various powers that be in South Dakota, skating this close to violations of federal and state law for the sake of a quixotic Senate campaign seems suicidal.