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Four 2016 Hopefuls Accused of Violating Campaign Finance Law

Image: Four 2016 Hopefuls Accused of Violating Campaign Finance Law
Former Governors: Jeb Bush, R-Fla., Scott Walker, R-Wis., Martin O'Malley, D-Md., and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn. (Brian Kersey/UPI/Landov; Ron Sachs/DPA/Landov; Joshua Roberts/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 01 Apr 2015 09:35 AM

Two nonpartisan campaign finance groups are asking the Federal Election Commission to "impose proper sanctions" against four presumed candidates for the presidency in 2016, alleging that they have skirted the law by raising funds for their unofficial campaigns, The New York Times reports.

Democracy 21 and Campaign Legal Center want the FEC to punish three Republicans former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and one Democrat, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, for violating campaign finance laws.

"Major presidential candidates have been engaged in a charade that fools nobody," said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"While they travel around and act like candidates, talk like candidates, fundraise like candidates, and build presidential campaign organizations like candidates, they have pretended not to be candidates."

A lawyer for the Campaign Finance Center, Paul S. Ryan, told the Times that the men "have skirted federal election law that requires candidates who are 'testing the waters' for the White House to limit individual contributions to $2,700 and subject themselves to other restrictions."

"These guys aren't just testing the waters for president," Ryan said, "they're soaking wet."

The groups accuse the politicians, none of whom has declared their candidacy, of filling their coffers with money raised by super PACs and other groups that "can accept unlimited funds to rake in contributions at $100,000-a-head fundraisers" while delaying an announcement of their intention to run, according to the Times.

Under Federal Election Commission rules, someone is a candidate after raising or receiving $5,000 unless they declare to be "testing the waters." During that period, Bloomberg reports, the amount of money and donations a candidate can use is restricted.

According to the complaint filed with the FEC, the four presumed candidates have traveled to, hired staff and set up political operations in early caucus and primary states, according to Bloomberg.

This isn't the first complaint of this election cycle. Last month, according to the Journal, the American Democracy Legal Fund filed a campaign-finance law complaint against Walker and his political-action committee, alleging similar violations of federal campaign finance law.

Spokespeople for Bush and O'Malley dismissed the complaint and maintained that they have been fully compliant with the law. Neither Santorum or Walker's people responded, the Journal reported.

Ryan said that his group is planning to file complaints against other candidates it believes have violated early fundraising limits, though he did not name names.

The only candidate who has thus far declared his candidacy is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Among the field of presumptive candidates, Ryan told the Times that just four of them (two Republicans and two Democrats) seem to have abided by "federal restrictions on candidates who are testing the waters."

They are: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb.

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Two nonpartisan campaign finance groups are asking the Federal Election Commission to "impose proper sanctions" against four presumed candidates for the presidency in 2016, alleging that they have skirted the law by raising funds for their unofficial campaigns, The New York Times reports.
campaign finance, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Martin OMalley
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2015-35-01
Wednesday, 01 Apr 2015 09:35 AM
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