Today the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, will file a complaint urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate possible violations of campaign finance law by presidential candidate Rick Perry’s campaign committee, RickPerry.org, and the Perry-supporting Super PAC Make Us Great Again.
Based on published media reports, the Campaign Legal Center believes that Make Us Great Again produced video footage of Rick Perry and gave that video footage to Perry’s campaign without charge. Such a gift of video footage would be an in-kind “contribution” from Make Us Great Again to RickPerry.org likely exceeding the $2,500 candidate contribution limit and violating the outright ban on Super PAC contributions to candidates.
“For decades, federal law has recognized that giving something of value to a candidate—like video footage—is the same thing as giving money to the candidate,” said Campaign Legal Center attorney Paul S. Ryan. “The Perry campaign is prohibited from accepting such in-kind contributions with a value exceeding the $2,500 contribution limit and, further, Super PACs are prohibited altogether from making contributions to candidates. It appears the Perry campaign and Make Us Great Again likely violated these laws and the FEC needs to investigate.”
“Presidential candidate Super PACs are simply vehicles for presidential candidates and big donors to circumvent the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer. “The candidate-specific Super PAC is the most dangerous vehicle for corruption in American politics today.”
On November 26, Politico reported: “In its Thanksgiving video, the [Perry] campaign uses two clips from an [sic] slickly produced advertisement aired on Perry’s behalf by Make Us Great Again, a Super PAC run by a longtime Perry associate, Mike Toomey.” The article was later updated to note a third clip that first appeared in the Make Us Great Again ad and then later appeared in the RickPerry.org ad. Politico’s website included both the Make Us Great Again ad and the RickPerry.org ad. The fact that three identical video clips were used in the two ads is obvious.
“Super PACs are out there raising unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and labor unions based on the already-suspect legal theory that they can’t corrupt candidates because they don’t make contributions to them,” said Ryan. “This type of video sharing makes a mockery of the contribution limits and the notion that Super PACs are independent of candidates. The FEC must investigate and crack down on Perry and Make Us Great Again if the Super PAC gave this video footage to the campaign.”
“The use by the Perry presidential campaign of the same video footage contained in an ad run by the Super PAC supporting Governor Perry raises serious concerns about whether the Super PAC is really independent from the Perry campaign, as required by law,” added Wertheimer. “This matter requires an FEC investigation to determine if the campaign finance laws have been violated.”
The Campaign Legal Center took the lead in preparing this complaint. To read the complaint, click here.