The Guardian: 'I'm Not a Candidate': How Presidential Hopefuls Get Around Finance Rules


“The big issue, and the one that is repeatedly being misreported in the press, is the question of when the candidate contribution limits kick in,” said Paul S Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by former John McCain lawyer Trevor Potter.

“I’ve seen a lot of incorrect reporting saying that they’re all saying they’re not candidates, because that way they don’t have to comply with contribution limits,” Ryan explained. “That’s not true. Contribution limits kick in as soon as you start raising and spending any money to start ‘testing the water’ to determine if you’ll run.

“The simple denial – ‘Oh, I’m not a candidate’ – that doesn’t get you out of the contribution limits. The only way to get out of the contribution limits is to say ‘I’m not even testing the waters’.” ...

“We see a lot of verbal gymnastics by these candidates at public events,” said Paul S Ryan at the Campaign Legal Center. “Yes, they often mention that their lawyers make them say they’re thinking about being candidates, but the simple fact that your lawyers made you say something and you say it doesn’t immunise it.”...

“The fact that they are willing to lie or joke about it in public doesn’t change what the law is,” Ryan added. “You cannot get around legal candidates status by lying. If you have decided to be a candidate, making a joke out of it doesn’t mean you haven’t decided.”...

“They can make it because the FEC is such a feckless enforcement agency,” said Ryan. “No one fears it. They know that even if the FEC does something, it will come along well after the election and it will amount to a slap on the wrist.

“So the question becomes: would you rather be a president, and two or three years after the fact be asked by the FEC – not told, asked – to pay some fairly trivial fine, or not be a president ever? That’s the calculation.”

To read the full story at The Guardian, click here.