The Legal Fiction That is Fixing the 2016 Plutocrat Primary

Posted on April 20, 2015


Common Cause is calling on Governors Jeb Bush and Scott Walker to level with Republican primary voters and obey campaign finance laws as they explore running for President.  In letters sent to both Bush and Walker on Friday we urged them to acknowledge the obvious – that they’re actively pursuing a potential candidacy – and to stop sidestepping laws that put limits on fundraising by declared candidates and those who are “testing the waters.”

Bush and Walker have been the most blatant violators of the fundraising restrictions in the early months of the campaign, delaying their campaign announcements so that they can work in sync with political organizations such as Super PACs, 501(c)(4)s, and 527s, to raise unlimited funds from unrestricted sources.  As our letters set out, “It is disappointing to see those who aspire to our nation’s highest office begin their pursuit of it by flouting the law.”

The legal fiction of “non-candidacy” status is a major feature of the Plutocrat Primary, the first real test for the 2016 presidential elections. A no holds barred campaign funding arms race is well underway.  During a session with donors in Washington early this year, Gov. Bush warned that an “ungodly” amount of money would be required to clinch the Republican nomination.  Fulfilling the prophecy, he launched a nationwide fundraising blitz, headlining various events at a cost of $25,000 to $100,000 per couple, and even an eye-popping $100,000 per ticket program on New York’s Park Avenue.  Similarly, Gov. Walker received a $100,000 check on the spot during a national fundraising tour with his outside organization.

This behavior ignores federal law, which caps contributions from individuals at $2,700 per election, whether a presidential prospect is “testing the waters” or operating as an announced candidate, and disallows acceptance of corporate, labor, and nonprofit funds. 

These “non-candidates” seem to be operating under the illusion that Americans don’t care that they’re violating the law.  Gov. Walker explained during a fundraiser in Iowa:

Legally we have to say we are ‘exploring,’ because the minute you say something else, a whole series of things happen.  So as we ‘explore,’ we will come back many more times.

He even slipped during a Fox News interview and outright called himself a candidate!

If you’re furrowing your eyebrows wondering, “How can this be?,” you’re not alone.  The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed Complaints with the Federal Election Commission pushing for accountability of the various “non-candidates” hitting the campaign trail.  Common Cause alerted the Federal Election Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Internal Revenue Service of our similar concerns. 

Indeed, the American public is pushing back as the aftermath of Citizens United is becoming increasingly obvious – that the plutocracy is choke-holding our democracy.  There are two actions that you can take right now to help push back: 

1.       Urge the Federal Election Commission to investigate “non-candidates” and hold them accountable.           

2.       Tell your Representative to amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United.  

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics

Tags: Citizens United

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