On May 21, Common Cause filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) violated the ‘soft money’ ban in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by soliciting unlimited contributions for a super PAC raising money for use in the Georgia Senate runoff elections. The allegations, first published by ProPublica, stem from a fundraising video that Rep. Greene recorded for the Stop Socialism NOW PAC, soliciting contributions to defeat candidates Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s January Senate runoffs.
Under federal campaign finance law, super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited individual, corporate and labor union funds. But federal candidates and officeholders may not “solicit … funds in connection with an election for Federal office … unless the funds are subject to the limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements” of FECA. A federal candidate or officeholder must limit any solicitation for a super PAC to no more than $5,000 from an individual donor, and no corporate or union funds. Rep. Greene’s solicitation was not limited as required.
“Candidate contribution and solicitation limits are a vital bulwark against deep-pocketed individuals and special interests attempting to buy influence and drown out the voices of the American people,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “The United States Supreme Court has been very clear in upholding candidate contribution limits and prohibitions on candidates soliciting funds outside those limits because such contributions lead to corruption and undermine the faith of Americans in the political process.”
The complaint cites the High Court ruling in McConnell v. FEC upholding the ‘soft money’ ban and explaining that “restrictions on solicitations are justified as valid anticircumvention measures. Large soft-money donations at a candidate’s or officeholder’s behest give rise to all of the same corruption concerns posed by contributions made directly to the candidate or officeholder.”
In the one-minute fundraising video, Rep. Greene’s commentary runs for 47 seconds, criticizing Ossoff and Warnock and concluding: “Stop Socialism Now PAC will stop Ossoff and Warnock from stealing our Senate seats. It’s time to fight back now, before it’s too late.” Her appearance is followed immediately by a voiceover urging viewers to “Make a contribution today to Stop Socialism Now PAC, because if Democrats win in Georgia, it’s all over for America,” while text on-screen urges viewers to “DONATE NOW” and directs them to the “donate” page for the PAC which is able to accept unlimited contributions.
“This videotaped solicitation for a super PAC clearly violates the soft money ban,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause Vice President for Policy and Litigation. “If candidates and officeholders can get away with this type of super PAC fundraising video, the soft-money ban will be virtually meaningless. The FEC needs to enforce the law and shut this type of fundraising activity down.”
“Outside groups raised and spent staggering amounts of money in the Georgia runoff thanks to the massive political fundraising loophole created by the Supreme Court in its Citizens United ruling and lower courts following it.” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “The line must be drawn when those groups raise those funds in violation of the laws on the books.”
To read the FEC complaint, click here.