The Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced on Monday that they will investigate a complaint made by Peter Flaherty of the National Legal and Policy Center against hip hop mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs in his involvement in the 2004 presidential election.
Flaherty said that Combs’ attempt to get more people out to the polls last year during the Vote or Die! Campaign was in violation of the IRS and the FEC, particularly when Combs publicly promoted the election of Senator John Kerry and the defeat of President George Bush.
Flaherty, president of the organization that promotes ethics in public life through research, education and legal action, said in a letter addressed to the FEC that Combs, the founder and CEO of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, “undertook an illegal campaign” aimed at defeating President Bush.
A group that was responsible for sponsoring the Vote or Die! Campaign is under scrutiny too.
Citizen Change, the nonpartisan organization formed by Combs, served as the umbrella group for the Vote or Die! campaign.
Flaherty said that on its website, Citizen Change described itself as “a non-partisan, non-profit organization with a mission to educate, motivate, and empower millions of young Americans to access their power on November 2nd.”
When the website was still active, it also stated that “together with the support of such media powerhouses as MTV, BET and Clear Channel, we will unite under the banner of Citizen Change to form a cultural tour de force-attacking programming airwaves and college campuses to spread our message: Vote or Die! While the Vote or Die! Message is an alarming one, so too are the conditions affecting our communities. It has become a matter of life and death.”
Flaherty pointed that the problem rose when Combs “made known his preference in the presidential election early in 2004 in a very public fashion.”
This was a blatant violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, since nonpartisan groups are not supposed to impose their political views during election time, Flaherty said, referring to a Feb. 9 Rolling Stone article last year concerning the 11th Annual Rock the Vote Awards Ceremony, which quoted Combs saying “We’re going to get Bush’s ass out of that office.”
The article went on to say that “P’Diddy was honored for his participation in various voter outreach programs, including Rock the Vote public service announcements and phone campaigns. Although event organizers were careful to emphasize the value of getting young people involved in politics regardless-party affiliation, P. Diddy’s acceptance speech made clear what side he’s on.”
Flaherty also said that Combs and Citizen Change failed to disclose to the FEC how much they spent, which Flaherty concluded “must have totaled millions of dollars.”
Flaherty filed the complaint with the FEC on Nov. 3.
The complaint also notes that Citizen Change is listed at the same address as Combs’ businesses, raising the possibility that corporate funds were illegally used in support of Citizen Change’s activities, a press release said.
The complaint also points to the campaign’s emphasis on fashion, style and conspicuous consumption. Flaherty is asking the FEC to investigate whether the real purpose of the Vote or Die! Campaign was to advance a Combs’ line of clothing, said the release, referring to the production and sales of the Vote or Die! t-shirt.
When Combs was honored with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Award last year, Flaherty said in a press release that “honoring Combs shows how badly the civil rights movement has lost its way. I think of the courage and decency of Rosa Parks, and then I think of what Combs represents.”
”The Vote or Die! Campaign was little more than a way for Combs to call attention to himself. In terms of effectiveness, it was a joke,” said Flaherty.