Who’s running ‘mystery leadership PACs’?

I’m looking for the wimp of a politician who won’t fess up to taking $29,000 from six political action committees (PACs) and then writing 22 checks for $1,000 each to support Democratic congressional incumbents and challengers.

This trickster hiding in the fiscal equivalent of a smoke-filled back room used as his or her guise a “leadership PAC” to circumvent the intent of campaign finance limits. Shocked! Shocked am I that a politician would do that. And he or she has plenty of shady company in this.

Here’s what these leadership PACs do, according to the Center for Responsive Politics:

Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 a year to leadership PACs, giving them a way to avoid contribution limits. For a typical House race, a contributor can give $1,000 for the primary election, $1,000 to the general election, and $5,000 per year to a candidate’s leadership PAC, effectively raising the contribution limit to $12,000. If a contributor gives the maximum to a Senate leader’s PAC, he can give a total of $30,000 over the six-year term – 15 times the limit for campaign contributions. Contributions to a member’s leadership PAC are converted to campaign contributions when the sponsor contributes the PAC money to his or her colleagues in order to curry favor with them. [emphasis added]

That’s who I’m looking for – the sponsor of the Right Track PAC. It’s got no Web site. It has no listed sponsor. It has only a treasurer listed as Hal Hyneman, who is apparently an influential Arkansas Democrat who once served on the state’s Boll Weevil Eradication Committee. But Federal Election Commission filings show no sponsor.

Hundreds of leadership PACs exist. If you’re in Congress or running for Congress, you have one. They’re used to influence and be influenced (see earlier post with examples). Right Track PAC, given the money involved, is small potatoes. For example, Freedom Project, the leadership PAC of former House majority leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), deals in millions of dollars. As I wrote last year:

Rep. Boehner’s leadership PAC since 1997 has disbursed more than 530 checks worth $5,000 each to House incumbents and GOP House candidates. That’s more than $2.6 million of largesse spread among the faithful. The PAC shipped off more than $189,000 in 64 smaller checks. And there’s the $15,000 sent each year since 2002 to the National Republican Campaign Committee.

So why worry about a piddling $29,000?

Accountability, that’s why. In what sponsor’s name is this money being used to grease others’ campaigns?

The Right Track PAC isn’t the only leadership PAC with an unidentified sponsor. The Center for Responsive Politics is looking to identify the sponsors of 31 “mystery PACs.” (See the list; join the hunt.) Some favor Democrats; others favor the GOP. These mystery PACs may be small, but they’ve collected a total of $935,676 to spread among their respective faithful.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has filed a bill called The Leadership PAC Disclosure Act that would require the politician responsible for a PAC to be named in disclosure documents. Jones’ bill has no co-sponsors and rests quietly in committee, where, sadly, it is likely to remain — as did a similar measure he previously filed.

The Democrats may have swept to power in ’06 with promises of reform, but the real Rove-DeLay rules haven’t changed: Get money, get power. Get more money, retain power.

xpost: 5th Estate

Categories: Politics/Law/Government

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2 replies »

  1. So now that this has been going on for a decade, NOW it’s an issue? Now that there’s a Democrat in the sights, NOW a Republican wants to step forward with cleaning up the system and championing accountability?


    Make it illegal across the board. For everyone. Retroactively.

    The GOP, the party of accountability.