Federal Election Commission Gets Complaint About a Zoe Lofgren Challenger

A politically influential national Democratic political action committee has filed an FEC complaint calling for an investigation into Charlene Nijmeh, an unsuccessful candidate for the 18th Congressional District.

The complaint filed by Defend the Vote charges that Nijmeh – who was a distant third in the March 5 primary that sent Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican Peter Hernandez to a November runoff – violated several ethics and transparency laws through her association with the production and dissemination of a fake newspaper and other materials distributed to voters.

Defend the Vote early this week announced it had endorsed former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in the 16th Congressional District. Liccardo received the most votes in the March primary.

In the complaint, the PAC alleged that what it called a fake newspaper published by Nijmeh mirrors several misleading websites created by Nijmeh’s consultant, the PAC said in a post on its website.

“It’s bad enough that Charlene Nijmeh is using Donald Trump and MAGA tactics to spread misinformation to California voters. Worse is that she’s clearly broken several anti-corruption laws to do it,” Defend The Vote Executive Director Brian Lemek said. “This is a slam dunk case for the FEC. They should immediately investigate and hold her accountable.”

In its complaint to the FEC, Defend the Vote said that Njmeh’s associate, a political consultant who describes himself as Nijmeh’s chief of staff, Matthew Ricchiazzi, produced and disseminated campaign materials in the form of a fake newspaper with misinformation.

The fake newspaper, according to Defend the Vote, expressly advocates for Nijmeh and spreads lies about her opponent and does not include a disclaimer reporting who funded it.
The PAC said Ricchiazzi has a history of producing fake news sites to spread misinformation.

“Ricchiazzi has spread lies tied to the January 6 insurrection, the 2020 election, and California elected officials,” said the Defend the Vote statement. “He also has ties to felons and controversial figures such as Roger Stone.”

In a statement about the FEC complaint, Defend the Vote said, “Nijmeh says she consented to Ricchiazzi publishing articles about the campaign and is identified as the payor on a separate mailer distributed to voters that invokes Roger Stone and urges Republican voters to vote for Nijmeh.

The PAC said Nijmeh’s campaign has not reported receiving an in-kind from Ricchiazzi for the mailer, Ricchiazzi has not filed an independent expenditure report for it, while Nijmeh’s campaign has also distributed campaign mailers that lack required disclaimers.

“The fake newspaper campaign materials violate legal contribution limits, reporting requirements and disclaimer requirements,” Defend the Vote said.

In the FEC complaint, the PAC said: “The fake newspaper is an in-kind campaign contribution. Neither Nijmeh nor the Committee paid for it and Ricchiazzi has taken responsibility for the publication. He, or a business entity with whom he is associated, paid for the publication.”

The size of this in-kind contribution would exceed the maximum amount allowed by law, the FEC complaint alleges. “The fake newspaper contains express advocacy for Nijmeh, which means it would require independent expenditure reporting if it were not coordinated,” the PAC said in its statement. “Because the fake newspaper expressly advocates for or against the election of a candidate, it must clearly identify the person who paid for the communication and whether or not it was authorized by a candidate. It does not contain such a disclaimer.”

The complaint to the FEC also said that Ricchiazzi’s mailer violates legal contribution limits, reporting requirements and disclaimer requirements, and that “the mailer invoking Roger Stone was a coordinated communication that expresses advocates for Nijmeh and against her opponent.”

“The mailer also fails to report whether or not it was authorized by Nijmeh, which is required by law, and Nijmeh’s own campaign mailers violated the law by failing to include transparency requirements,” Defend the Vote.


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. So glad to see this article about the complaint made to the FEC about Nijmeh! She and her alleged mouthpiece really pulled some very dirty tricks.

    Also, as a Gilroy resident, nice to see Barry Holtzclaw’s byline…….. former editor of the Gilroy Dispatch!

  2. Connee – Please reach Charlene’s website and see if you don’t rethink your views. Zoe has done some great work in her 14 terms in Congress, but she was clearly off the mark calling Charlene a MAGA Republican. https://www.charleneforcongress.com/zoe-is-smearing-me

    Charlene is actually more progressive than Zoe on issues like single-payer healthcare, justice for Palestine, housing affordability, the indigenous land-back campaign, and in her refusal to take corporate PAC money (unlike Zoe who accepts lots of corporate donations).

    She did not pay for nor publish the newspaper with some content that Zoe has questioned, and had no editorial say in it content. A better question to ask is why is an Illinois PAC getting involved in a California campaign, and what is their tie to former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo that they wish to endorse his Congressional campaign.

    It seems that corporate democrats are rightfully afraid of going up against true Progressive candidates, as their hypocrisy often shows up in their votes. Like Nancy passed the torch to Hakeem Jeffries for a younger generational leader, perhaps Zoe should consider passing the torch herself.

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