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August 14, 2013 - Watchdogs File FEC Complaint Against Santorum Campaign for Illegally Directing Super PAC Contributions

Today, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), against Rick Santorum and campaign staffers for directing a donor to make a $1 million campaign contribution to a super PAC supporting Santorum’s 2012 presidential run.  Federal candidates and their staff are prohibited by the McCain-Feingold law’s “soft money” ban from directing more than $5,000 to a super PAC.

According to a published report, energy executive Bill Doré told Santorum at a January 2012 dinner meeting that he wanted to contribute $1 million to Santorum’s campaign.  Given that contributions to federal candidate campaigns are limited to $2,500, Doré reportedly stated in an interview that either Santorum or unnamed staffers told Doré to send his $1 million check to the Red, White and Blue Fund super PAC.

“Mr. Doré’s account of his interaction with Mr. Santorum and his staff, if true, reveals a clear violation of federal campaign finance law,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “Federal law prohibits candidates and their staff from directing more than $5,000 to a super PAC and either Mr. Santorum or his staff seemingly directed a $1 million contribution to the Red, White and Blue Fund.”

A recent report by the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group’s Keenan Steiner, The $1 million dinner: When big donor Bill Dore meets Rick Santorum, based on several interviews with Doré,  outlines this apparent violation of federal law.  According to the piece, Bill Doré initially told the reporter that upon learning of Doré’s willingness to make a $1 million contribution, Santorum told him about the super PAC.  After hearing the reporter’s surprise regarding Doré’s account of his conversation with Santorum, Doré reportedly backtracked and said it was “Santorum’s aides” who did so and even provided a mailing address for the Super PAC.  Doré sent the million dollar check that same day and ultimately contributed $2,250,000 to the super PAC over the next two and a half months.

Federal law clearly states that a “candidate, individual holding Federal office, agent of a candidate or an individual holding Federal office, or an entity directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by or acting on behalf of 1 or more candidates or individuals holding Federal office” shall not “solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend funds in connection with an election for Federal office . . . unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements of this Act.”  2 U.S.C. § 441i(e)(1)(A) (emphasis added).  FEC regulations define “direct” to mean “guide, directly or indirectly, a person who has expressed an intent to make a contribution, donation, transfer of funds, or otherwise provide anything of value, by identifying a candidate, political committee or organization, for the receipt of such funds, or things of value.”  11 C.F.R. § 300.2(n).

An FEC advisory opinion issued in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, AO 2011-12, states emphatically that while super PACs may accept unlimited contributions, the McCain-Feingold law’s soft money restrictions and the federal law $5,000 contribution limit remain applicable to federal candidate fundraising for super PACs.

To read the story, click here.

To read the complaint, click here.

 
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