Financial Times: DoJ asked to probe legality of Bush fundraising
Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center said there were “powerful grounds” to suggest that Mr Bush was breaking the law by using his “Right to Rise” fundraising organisation to raise huge amounts of money before he formally announces his intention to run for the White House.
In 2010, the Supreme Court dramatically changed the fundraising landscape by ruling that Super-Pacs could raise unlimited amounts of money. The campaign finance watchdogs say Mr Bush and Right to Rise appear to be breaching one of the conditions attached to the ruling — that Super-Pacs cannot co-ordinate fundraising and spending activities with actual candidates.
“They are engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign and thereby violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption,” the groups wrote to Loretta Lynch, the attorney-general.
While Mr Bush has not formally entered the race, the watchdogs say he has become a de facto candidate. They say he has created a campaign team that goes far beyond the exploratory committees that potential candidates use to test the waters, and that his travel to some of the early voting states in the Republican primaries shows that he intends to run in 2016.
“The fact of his candidacy is so apparent, and so overt, that Bush himself has found it hard to maintain what is really the ongoing charade of his purported non-candidacy,” the groups said.
Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said many presidential hopefuls, including Mr Bush, were abusing the campaign finance rules by maintaining the fiction that they were not yet running for president.
“The system has broken down . . . I do not think this is what the Supreme Court intended or expected,” said Mr Potter. “It is a rapidly growing cancer that the political structures appear unable to control.”
Mr Potter said there was little chance that the FEC, which regulates campaign finance, would tackle the issue before the 2016 presidential election because the agency — which has three Republican and three Democrat commissioners — had become completely “dysfunctional”.
The justice department said it would review the letter from the campaign finance watchdogs but declined to comment further. The Bush team rejected suggestions that it had violated any laws, but declined to provide any specific rebuttals. “We are fully complying with the law in all activities Governor Bush is engaging in on the political front, and will continue to do so,” said Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Mr Bush.
Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center said they would ask the justice department to look into the fundraising activities of other candidates. Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor who is also expected to run, has been raising money through “Our American Revival” — a so-called 527 entity that can also raise unlimited funds after the Supreme Court decision.