Two campaign finance watchdog groups are asking the Justice Department to look into Jeb Bush’s activities with the Right to Rise Super PAC he started. The groups–Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center–sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday and asked the DOJ to investigate whether Bush and his super PAC are “engaged in knowing and willful violations of the federal campaign finance laws” by coordinating with one another.
Earlier this year Governor Jeb Bush launched a Super PAC to begin raising an unlimited amount of money for a “potential” run for the White House in 2016. He has traveled all over the country making appearances in early primary states, speaking to voters and raising money, all while maintaining that he is not an official candidate for the presidency. Everyone knows he is running for president– he knows it, we know it, his donors know it– but he can’t actually say it, because then his activity with his Super PAC would become illegal.
You see, it is perfectly legal for private citizen Bush to hire high-ranking Republicans to work for his Super PAC and “potential” presidential campaign. It is perfectly legal for private citizen Bush to speak to the Super PAC and let them know what he wants his message to be. It is perfectly legal for private citizen Bush to raise money for his Super PAC and he has–a lot of it. Bush and his aides recently told donors that they are on the cusp of raising the most money ever raised by a presidential candidate at this point in an election cycle. David Beightol, a lobbyist and Bush supporter, recently told USA Today that the former governor will report “an extraordinary number [of money] no one has ever seen before.”
By not declaring his candidacy, Bush is skating a fine legal line. All of those things just mentioned would be violations of campaign finance laws, because an official candidate is not allowed to coordinate with their Super PAC or accept any individual donation over $2,700 per election. So by not “officially declaring” he is essentially gaming the system; but the watchdog groups said what he is doing is not legal and instead, it is a clear violation of the law. That is why they are asking Attorney General Lynch to appoint an independant Speacial Counsel and investigate:
“We further request that you exercise your statutory authority to appoint an independent Special Counsel to conduct the investigation on behalf of the Department. Jeb Bush is a candidate for President. The Right to Rise Super PAC is an entity that has been established, and is being financed, maintained and controlled, by Bush and his agents. The Super PAC is also acting on behalf of Bush. As such, it is prohibited from raising or spending money that does not comply with Federal contribution limits and source prohibitions (i.e., “soft money”). 52 U.S.C. § 30125(e)(1). Bush is likewise prohibited from raising and spending soft money through such an entity.”
We all know Bush is a candidate for president; he himself has said that he is a candidate for president. In a video posted by NBC, earlier this month, he said, “I’m running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we, if I run, how do you create high sustained economic growth.” That is a declaration that cannot just be taken back because he says it wasn’t official.
The Republican Party is constantly screaming from the rooftops that Obama is a “criminal” and that he “violates the law” but when they actually break the law and we are all supposed to ignore it. The Citizens United ruling paved the way for our elections to be bought by the highest corporate donor and that won’t be changed until lawmakers pass an amendment repealing the asinine ruling. Even though, we can’t immediately fix that, the Justice Department can and should enforce current campaign finance laws. It is obvious that Bush has willfully broken those laws and he needs to be punished for it.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.