Liberal Groups: Bush Violating Campaign Finance Law

Liberal Groups: Bush Violating Campaign Finance Law
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Two watchdog groups are asking the Department of Justice to investigate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for possible campaign finance violations.

The groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, allege that Bush and his Right to Rise super PAC are “engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign and thereby violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption,” they wrote in a letter to the DOJ.

Bush, who is not yet an officially declared candidate, is purposely delaying his entry into the race to mask the appearance of “knowing and willful” campaign finance violations, the groups allege. Under the law, a declared presidential candidate cannot coordinate in any way with a super PAC.

A Bush spokesperson told RealClearPolitics the governor is “fully complying with the law” in all of his political activities, and will continue to do so. 

In their letter, the groups called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint an independent investigator.

“Quite clearly this is a man very actively running for President and raising tens of millions of dollars in ‘soft money’ to aid his quest,” Campaign Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert said in a statement. “Denying he is a candidate does not exempt the former governor from obeying the law which prohibits candidates from raising and spending soft money.”

According to Hebert, the Federal Election Commission is “dysfunctional” and does not enforce campaign finance laws. Therefore, he said, his group plans on filing more requests to the Department of Justice in the future to crack down on those who “thumb [their] nose” at campaign finance laws.

“This will not be the only time we ask the Justice Department to step in to fill the breach in the laws passed by Congress in the wake of previous scandals to keep the White House and Congress off the auction block,” Hebert added.

The groups say Bush has been “overtly” conducting himself as an “active candidate” since January 2015, making it difficult for the former governor to continue the “ongoing charade of his purported non-candidacy.”

Earlier this month, while speaking to reporters in Nevada, Bush said he is a candidate for president -- but quickly backtracked: “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.”

Democracy 21’s founder and president, Fred Wertheimer, is a longtime proponent of campaign finance reform. He also served for 14 years as the president of Common Cause, an open-government liberal advocacy group.

Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter served as the commissioner of the FEC from 1991 to 1995, and was John McCain’s general counsel for his 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

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