The Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved a rulemaking petition, filed by Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Issue One and five former lawmakers from both parties. Published in the federal register today, The petition followed the release of our joint report, How Leadership PACs Became Politicians' Preferred Ticket to Luxury Living, highlighting the abuse of leadership PACs.
The petition asked the FEC to clarify that the prohibition on the personal use of campaign funds also applies to politicians’ leadership PACs. Established in 1978 as a way to let lawmakers raise money for their allies, only a minority of all leadership PAC spending has been used to make contributions to other candidates or political committees. Instead, as highlighted in the report, leadership PAC funds are routinely used for expenses that range from gourmet dinners to five-star vacations.
While lawmakers are barred from using campaign funds for “personal use,” the FEC has not applied that prohibition to lawmakers’ leadership PACs. The FEC could prevent many of the worst abuses documented in the report by clarifying that leadership PAC funds cannot be used for personal use. A change to the rules about how leadership PAC funds may be spent is long overdue and this petition presents the agency with a great opportunity to use its authority to halt officials from using leadership PAC accounts as personal slush funds.
This petition was a product of collaboration with former members of Congress from both sides of the aisle: Rod Chandler (R-Wash.), Larry LaRocco (D-Idaho), Peter Smith (R-Vt.), Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.), and John Tanner (D-Tenn.) The FEC is inviting public comment on the rulemaking petition; comments are accepted through November 16, 2018.