CLC White Paper Outlines Likely Violations By 2016 Presidential Field


Today, the Campaign Legal Center released a white paper examining prospective 2016 presidential candidates raising millions of dollars, while denying that they are even “testing the waters” for a potential run for their Party’s nomination. Why would they deny the obvious? Federal law requires an individual who is “testing the waters” of candidacy to pay for those activities with funds raised in compliance with the candidate contribution restrictions—no individual contributions above $2,700, and no corporate or labor union funds. Nearly every likely presidential contender is ignoring the candidate limits and the Federal Election Commission is doing nothing to stop it.

Written by Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan, the white paper details the recent political activities of nearly 20 prospective 2016 presidential candidates, the campaign finance laws that many of these prospective candidates are likely violating, and the history of similar evasion and violation going all the way back to Ronald Reagan, who began stretching the boundaries of the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1977, just three years after President Richard Nixon resigned his office in disgrace leading to passage of the Act.

“Testing the waters’ means activity undertaken to determine whether the individual should become a candidate, including, for example, traveling to see if there is sufficient support for one’s candidacy,” said Ryan. “Nearly every prospective 2016 presidential candidate is raising and spending funds outside the candidate contribution limits, through super PACs, leadership PACs and other groups. They’re traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire; they’re hiring campaign staff; one has even opened an office in Iowa. They claim they’re not ‘testing the waters,’ but they look soaking wet to me.”

Ryan continued: “And though Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush got away with pushing the ‘testing the waters’ boundaries back in the 1970s and 80s, their boundary-pushing took place prior to the midterm elections and involved limited contributions. Jeb Bush’s reported plan to raise $100 million in unlimited super PAC contributions during the first quarter of this year—after the midterm election, during the 2016 presidential election cycle—is not merely a difference in degree; it is a difference in kind. The flood of unlimited money unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, coupled with the FEC’s ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ non-enforcement policy, have led to unrestricted bidding in the auction that our presidential campaigns have sadly become.”

To read the executive summary, click here

To read the full white paper, click here