Tim Canova Files Formal Election Complaint Against Debbie Wasserman Schultz

When WikiLeaks published a trove of hacked Democratic National Committee emails in July, website founder Julian Assange promised the world he'd upend the 2016 presidential election. That hasn't quite happened, but Assange did get to at least claim one politician as a trophy: The document dump forced Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign her post as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Now the leaks have also triggered a formal Federal Election Commission complaint, which could lead to sanctions against the embattled Florida congresswoman.

Tim Canova, the upstart law professor mounting a grassroots campaign to oust Wasserman Schultz from her seat in Florida's 23rd Congressional District, announced today via Twitter he had filed the complaint. He claims the email dump proves Wasserman Schultz illegally used DNC staffers to help with her reelection campaign.

"It is now clear our opponent, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, improperly and illegally abused her position at the Democratic National Committee to coordinate against our campaign," a post on Canova's website reads.

Neither Canova nor Wasserman Schultz's campaign immediately responded to calls from New Times.

Last month, New Times broke news that Canova's name turned up repeatedly in the DNC's email leak. WikiLeaks' email database showed that DNC staffers, who were not part of Wasserman Schultz's campaign team, routinely kept tabs on Canova's campaign, shared articles about him, and helped the congresswoman coordinate her fight against him.

In one instance, Wasserman Schultz personally asked campaign staff to remove Canova's name from the headline in an outgoing news release.

In another email chain, DNC spokesperson Luis Miranda asked staffers to "do some digging" for information about a May rally at which Canova planned to speak in Alaska. The rally had been scheduled to compete with one of Wassserman Schultz's speeches.

"When is he [Canova] speaking compared to when she [Wasserman Schultz] is speaking?" DNC staffer Kate Houghton wrote May 12. "Adding a few more people. We need as much intel as you can provide."

If the FEC chooses to enforce Canova's complaint, the commission could levy fines against Wasserman Schultz.

Florida's Democratic primary is August 30.

UPDATE 8/8: A Wasserman Schultz campaign staffer said the congresswoman had not yet seen the complaint and therefore would not comment.

UPDATE 8/9: Ryan Banfill, a spokesperson for the Wasserman Schultz campaign, said the congresswoman had gotten a copy of the complaint late yesterday.

"There is no merit to this complaint, and once again, the Congresswoman's opponent is wasting her constituents' time with attacks based on stolen, cherry-picked information and continues to ignore the issues that actually matter to the people of the 23rd Congressional district," he said via email. "The Congresswoman's opponent may have little familiarity with Democrats in the district, but Debbie Wasserman Schultz has served the community for over two decades and knows full well that voters are focused on the facts - not made-up smears and distractions. It's time he got serious."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.