Thanks to the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizen’s United decision which burst open the floodgates of legalized political bribery into our democracy, Jeb Bush has managed to raise tens of millions of dollars by taking one step further and milking the system for all it’s worth. Seven months into his “exploratory” committee, Jeb Bush hasn’t officially himself to be a candidate for the Presidency, even though every move he makes is an obvious step on the campaign trail.
He’s even behaving like a new candidate, flubbing Iraq questions on the Kelly File and backtracking several days later, making abrasively ignorant statements about global warming, and entertaining rich Republican donors in secret backroom fundraising events. But since he is not an official candidate, the current finance laws technically allow him to collect millions in “anonymous donations” for his “exploratory” Super PACs, both named “Right To Rise”, and that has raised eyebrows among election finance lawyers.
The New York Times reported that a growing body of legal critics are eyeing the Jeb Bush camp for their flagrant exploitation of our country’s election laws. The Times observed that “federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate and thus subject to the spending and disclosure restrictions.” But since Jeb has been soliciting only for his Super PAC and not for his campaign office, he technically is sidestepping those restrictions.
“When you look at the totality of the activities, could a reasonable person conclude anything other than that he is seeking the presidency?” asks Karl J. Sandstrom, a former FEC official. Bush’s noncandidacy allows him to bypass the paltry limits that exist on campaign donations, letting him amass a huge war chest of funds before even he even declares himself a candidate, thumbing his nose and making “a mockery of the law.”
As he holds $25,000 a head fundraisers and travels around Iowa, two campaign election watchdog groups, Democracy21 and the Campaign Legal Center, have sent letters to the Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Department of Justice asking for a special investigation into Jeb Bush’s obvious attempts to subvert the campaign laws of the United States government. Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy21, states that “our organizations are not prepared to allow a dysfunctional and paralyzed FEC to provide cover for presidential candidates to engage in widespread violations of the nation’s laws enacted to prevent corruption.”
The dysfunction of the FEC is well known at this point– with the judges divided equally along partisan lines, the watchdog group is effectively crippled as the Republican side of the group refuses to let any action be taken to reduce the absurd amount of money pouring into American politics. It will fall upon the DOJ to take any action against Bush and his campaign, which is showing its true colors before he has even declared himself a candidate.
We shouldn’t have expected anything less from Jeb Bush, who is no stranger to political corruption. We must not forget how, as Governor of Florida, he engineered the vast voter fraud and intimidation program which tipped the scales in favor of his brother George W. Jeb is back to his old tricks, stretching the legal definition of “candidate” as far it will go, gaming the system and gathering enough money to make up for the fact that he is, at the core, a weak, boring, and unenthusiastic candidate who is almost certainly a puppet for corporate interests. Judging from the way things played out with the last Bush in office, it is absolutely critical that we don’t let Jeb get away with this.
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.