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The Midmorning Refill: 2012 candidates Romney, Pawlenty are throwing election laws for a loop (hole)

Today’s Flickr photo

Flickr photo by WarmSleepy.

If you read one thing today . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a set of campaign finance laws that didn’t have loopholes you could drive a truck through? Alas, we’ll just have to keep dreaming. The New York Times’ Michael Luo writes about 2012 GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and how they’ve been avoiding federal rules by raising money — contributions many times bigger than what federal law allows — through state-regulated political action committees.

The money, which has gone to the politicians’ “leadership PACs,” is not allowed to be used to fuel a presidential run, but it often acts as seed money to help raise a potential candidate’s national profile and provide financing to other politicians who can help him later. The contributions can also build an infrastructure of staff, offices and donors that can be later transformed into a full-fledged campaign, but this kind of spending also carries the potential of tripping over campaign finance laws.

The outsize contributions are possible because while donations to federal PACs are limited to $5,000, many state-based entities have no such limits. Some can also take donations from corporations and unions, which federal PACs cannot directly do.


Some Democratic fundraisers are meeting this week in Washington, D.C. where they are playing Monday morning quarterback on this year’s midterm elections. Among the things they’ll debate, according to Andy Kroll in Mother Jones, is whether they should fight fire with fire. That is, whether they should do what the conservatives and the GOP did so successfully this past year, which was to raise massive amounts of money through outside groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s Crossroads. Democratic fundraiser and former Clinton staffer Harold Ickes says Democrats have to pull out all the stops:

“Is small money better? You bet,” Ickes says. “But we’re in a f*cking fight. And if you’re in a fistfight, then you’re in a fistfight, and you use all legal means available.”