The New York Times: Campaign Finance Complaints Filed Against 4 Presidential Hopefuls


Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, which charged that some undeclared candidates had violated the law. Gabriella Ddemczuk for The New York Times

The groups, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, filed formal complaints with the Federal Election Commission against four undeclared candidates for president: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Santorum, all Republicans; and Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. Both organizations favor more restrictive regulations governing how political money is raised and spent.

Among the prospective White House candidates, those four have been particularly aggressive in appearing at fund-raisers, visiting crucial states like Iowa and New Hampshire, hiring staff members and setting up offices, and positioning themselves for a possible bid, Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer for the center, said in an interview.

Yet they 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, Mr. Ryan charged. Instead, news reports show that Mr. Bush and other candidates have used “super PACs” and other groups that can accept unlimited funds to rake in contributions at $100,000-a-head fund-raisers, even while they put off announcing their candidacies, he said.

“These guys aren’t just ‘testing the waters’ for president,” Mr. Ryan said. “They’re soaking wet.”


Mr. Ryan said that beyond the four candidates named Tuesday, his group planned to file complaints against other candidates who the groups believed had also violated the limits on early fund-raising.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is the only major candidate to officially declare his candidacy for the White House. Among the other prospective candidates maneuvering for 2016 runs, Mr. Ryan said that only four — Senator Lindsey Graham and Ben Carson, both Republicans; and the Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jim Webb — appeared to have complied with federal restrictions on candidates who are testing the waters.

Mr. Ryan said Mrs. Clinton, the presumed front-runner for the Democratic nomination, appeared to have abided by federal campaign finance law by using personal funds and volunteer staff members to prepare her expected White House run. He said that she also appeared to have kept her distance from a political action committee called Ready for Hillary that is supporting her but appears to be operating independently. He contrasted the group with Right to Rise, a super PAC set up by associates of Mr. Bush in support of his possible White House run that has raised money for him.

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