The Advocate: Candidates can fluctuate between rich, poor with new money rules in dramatically changing world of presidential election financing


In actuality, campaigns and the single-candidate super PACs aligned with them are “joined at the hip,” said Paul S. Ryan, of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Washington group that favors vigorous enforcement of campaign finance laws.

Yet with regulators hamstrung by partisan deadlock and congressional hostility, “The laws on the books are virtually meaningless,” Ryan said.

As super PACs increasingly engage in the kind of basic election activity central to a candidate’s official campaign, the lines between them blur, he said.

“The reason all this is a problem is that for decades, federal law has limited contributions to the candidates to prevent corruption of the candidates,” Ryan said. ...

“The outsourcing of campaign activities to super PACs renders meaningless the $2,700 contribution limit and poses a serious threat of corruption of these candidates,” Ryan said. ...

But if enforcement by the FEC is hobbled by partisan discord, regulation of dark-money groups by the IRS is paralyzed by a hostile political environment, Ryan and Corrado said.

Those groups were the subject of mishandled IRS investigations that erupted into the tea party-targeting scandal and made agency official Lois Lerner a household name before she was forced from her job in 2013. With Congress now controlled by Republicans, who led the attack on Lerner, the agency is highly unlikely to probe for dark-money violations, Ryan and Corrado said.

“The IRS has been bullied into submission,” Ryan said.

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