That is the question before the Federal Election Commission on Thursday at its next open meeting.  In a draft Advisory Opinion posted Friday, the preliminary answer is that a former candidate’s campaign committee faces no limits on contributions to a Super PAC.

The question is posed by former candidate, Mike Haridopolos.  He dropped out of the Florida Senate race last year and still has more than $1 million in the bank.  He asks the FEC if he can make a contribution of $10,000 or more from those funds to a Super PAC called Freedom PAC. 

The draft advisory opinion concludes that the contribution is permitted by the catch-all provision in the law that allows use of campaign funds “for any other lawful purpose,” concluding the contribution is neither a prohibited personal use nor otherwise unlawful.  The draft notes that were the conclusion to be otherwise, as a former-candidate, Mr. Haridopolos could nonetheless achieve the same result by simply converting his campaign committee into a nonconnected committee by amending its registration statement, and then making the contribution, all of which would be permissible under current law. 

The issue is made somewhat easier because it is posed by a former candidate.  The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 states a federal candidate or officeholder may not “direct” or “transfer” funds in excess of the hard money limits.  Since Haridopolos is no longer a candidate, the FEC can avoid hard questions that could arise interpreting that restriction or the coordination rules.

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Photo of Robert Lenhard Robert Lenhard

Robert Lenhard is a member of the firm’s Election & Political Law practice group and advises corporations, trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, and high-net-worth individuals on compliance with federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics laws.

Mr. Lenhard routinely assists clients in…

Robert Lenhard is a member of the firm’s Election & Political Law practice group and advises corporations, trade associations, not-for-profit organizations, and high-net-worth individuals on compliance with federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and government ethics laws.

Mr. Lenhard routinely assists clients in establishing and operating federal and state PACs, compliance programs associated with campaign finance and pay-to-play laws; advises advocacy groups and their donors; conducts compliance trainings and audits of federal and state lobbying and political programs; and counsels clients on compliance with congressional gift and travel rules.

Prior to joining the firm in 2008, Mr. Lenhard served as Chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in 2007 and Vice Chairman of the agency in 2006, during which time the agency handled over 10 major rulemakings, had among its most productive years in enforcement and audit, and adopted several reforms to the enforcement process.  Mr. Lenhard has also led the Presidential Transition Team that reviewed the FEC for the incoming Obama administration in 2008-2009.