CLC Letter Urges That Politicians Not Use PACs as Personal Slush Funds

Sean Cooksey appearing on a monitor in a committee room
Sean J. Cooksey speaks before a Senate Rules and Administration hearing on the nominations of himself, Shana M. Broussard and Allen Dickerson, to be new members of the Federal Election Commission in Washington, DC on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI/Alamy Live News

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) sent a letter to Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioner Sean Cooksey urging the FEC to strengthen rules concerning lawmakers’ use of their leadership PACs for personal expenses.

A leadership PAC is a political action committee (PAC) controlled by a federal candidate or officeholder that is supposed to be used to support other candidates’ campaigns. Yet lawmakers routinely use them as personal slush funds.

In the May 6, 2021 statement, Commissioner Cooksey accurately notes that the FEC has not historically enforced the personal use prohibition against leadership PACs.

As a result, as CLC and Issue One have documented extensively over the years, officeholders from both parties have taken advantage of the Commission’s laxity by using leadership PACs to subsidize their lavish lifestyles.  

If campaign funds can be used for a candidate’s personal benefit, then contributions pose a greater risk of corruption. In other words, it is one thing to contribute to a candidate in order to support their run for office; it is another to finance an officeholder’s trip to Vegas or country club dues.

Given the risk of corruption associated with the personal use of campaign funds, it is unclear why Cooksey chose to use his platform as a Commissioner to publicly declare that FEC regulations allow lawmakers to freely use leadership PAC contributions for personal benefit.

But, Cooksey’s statement acknowledges that the FEC could close this corruption loophole through a formal rulemaking.

In 2018, CLC, Issue One and a bipartisan set of former lawmakers filed a rulemaking petition asking the FEC to extend the personal use prohibition to include leadership PACs. In the letter, CLC and Issue One invite Cooksey to support the petition.

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