Tags: Senate | races | PAC | political action committee | financing

Legal Experts Question Use of PAC Funds in Senate Campaigns

Friday, 31 October 2014 02:04 PM

Legal experts have questioned whether Senate campaigns are attempting to circumvent election finance limits by turning leadership PAC money into campaign cash, Time magazine reports.

Embattled Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu gave $5,000 in March from her Jazz PAC to the campaign of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, whose leadership PAC Midwest Values PAC then gave $5,000 back to Landrieu’s campaign within days.

Landrieu, in fact, had 21 such dubious exchanges through Sept. 30 of the current midterm election cycle, giving $96,000 to other candidates’ campaigns, Time reported. Within a week she had received the same amount back from the leadership PACs of those candidates.

Individual donors are allowed to give a maximum of $2,600 per election whereas leadership PACs can give up to $5,000 per election, noted the magazine, which pointed out that Landrieu is not the only Democrat to have taken advantage of what appears to be a loophole in campaign financing laws.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Udall of Colorado, all had at least 20 such trades within a short space of time.

Democrats with more than 10 exchanges were Sens. Franken, Chris Coons of Delaware, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, Alaska’s Mark Begich (Alaska), Tom Udall of New Mexico, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Virginia’s Mark Warner, plus Reps. Bruce Braley of Iowa and Gary Peters of Michigan, both of whom are running for Senate seats, according to Time.

But it is not just Democrats apparently abusing the system. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky engaged in 14 such transactions, forking out $70,000 out of his Bluegrass Committee PAC to other GOP candidates, who then used their PACs to donate the money back to his campaign within seven days.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas made the suspicious transaction 11 times in this cycle using his Preserving America’s Traditions PAC, according to the publication.

Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, called it a form of political money laundering, even though it does not exactly involve sending back the same money to the original donor.

"What you’re looking at clearly strikes me as an abuse of leadership PACs that undermines the integrity of basic contribution limits," Ryan told Time.

Another unidentified campaign finance lawyer said, "This appears not to be happening by spontaneous combustion."

And Kenneth Gross, a former head of the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division, said that the "net effect is to turn leadership PAC money into campaign money."

"The totals aren’t huge, but this is an example of the ‘leave no stone unturned’ principle of campaign finance," said Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics and 30-year veteran of the FEC. "This is going to pretty amazing lengths.

"Moving money around to try to change it from cash that isn’t useful, into cash that is, has always been part of the fundraising game."

But Biersack told Time that the leadership PAC and campaign committee exchanges are "an illustration of how to game the system in every conceivable way."

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Legal experts have questioned whether Senate campaigns are attempting to circumvent election finance limits by turning leadership PAC money into campaign cash, Time magazine reports.
Senate, races, PAC, political action committee, financing
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2014-04-31
Friday, 31 October 2014 02:04 PM
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