Philly-area candidates benefit from fund-raising strategy that critics say bypasses donation limits

The Philadelphia Inquirer

A political fund-raising strategy that critics say increases mega-donors' influence, strengthens parties' power, and skirts contribution limits — one calls it "legalized money-laundering" — is on the rise in the Philadelphia region.

Nationwide, groups known as joint-fund-raising committees have raised more money this year than in any previous midterm election cycle. These committees allow donors to give money to multiple candidates, groups, and parties at once, essentially bundling what would normally be multiple small donations into one large sum. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling removed previous caps on how much total political money a donor could give each year, paving the way for larger checks than ever before.

With joint-fund-raising committees, big donors can legally cut checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars and more, even though federal campaign finance laws limit donors to $2,700 per candidate and $10,000 per state party.

"The reason we have those contribution limits in place is because of corruption," said Brendan Fischer, federal reform director at good-government group Campaign Legal Center. "A candidate is going to owe a massive debt of gratitude to a donor who writes a generous check to a campaign — and a joint-fund-raising committee allows a candidate and a donor to bypass those limits."

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