Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lauren Book's 'Leadership For Broward"-- Just what is a "leadership PAC"?

We've already discussed the obscene amount of money raised by Lauren Book's "Leadership for Broward" PAC ($765,000 to date, which is on par with big-name pols like Jeb Bush, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan). That's a lot of money for a district in the Everglades. That is extremely shady.

But just what IS a "leadership PAC"? This is the OpenSecrets.org explanation of the shadowy practices of the Leadership PAC:

"Leadership PACs: Background

A leadership PAC is a political action committee that can be established by current and former members of Congress as well as other prominent political figures. Leadership PACs are designed for two things: to make money and to make friends, both of which are crucial to ambitious politicians looking to advance their careers.

Leadership PACs are used to fund expenses that are ineligible to be paid by campaign committees or congressional offices. Those costs can include travel to raise a politician's profile, for instance. Democratic leadership PACs are also used to fund fellow Democrats' campaigns, especially threatened incumbents or challengers trying to win seats that were previously held by the GOP. Politicians often use their PACs to donate to other candidates because they are considering seeking a leadership position in Congress, a higher office, or leverage within their own party as they show off their fundraising ability.

Both Democrats and Republicans operate these PACs, which can accept money from other PACs and from individuals. Individuals can contribute up to $5,000 per year to a member's leadership PAC, even if they have already donated the maximum to that member's campaign."

Leadership PACs are, simply put, a way for pols to circumvent restrictions on collecting campaign funds and how those funds are spent. It is that simple.

ThinkProgress points out the potential for abuse:

For years, current and former elected officials have created leadership PACs, political action committees they can use to raise money to help elect like-minded candidates. But with no law preventing politicians from using the funds raised by their leadership PAC for personal use, some operate these committees more as an expense account than a political action committee.

A ThinkProgress review of Federal Election Commission (FEC) PAC data found that four leadership PACs have spent a paltry amount of their funds so far this election cycle on actual political candidates, while vasts amounts went to pay staffers, cover overhead, and cover travel, meals, parking, and even highway tolls.

While the politicians are rarely involved with the day-to-day operations of these leadership PACs (or their own campaign committees), they frequently headline fundraising events for the committees and they are largely free to spend the raised money as they wish. Donors seeking to earn lawmakers’ gratitude or help boost the politician’s political standing often donate to both their campaign account and their leadership PAC.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, leadership PACs are “considered separate from a politician’s campaign committee, providing donors with a way around individual campaign contribution limits.” They “provide a way for candidates to fund their travel, office expenses, consultants, polling and other non-campaign expenses,” though ostensibly their purpose is to advance the political view points of their owner.

Interestingly, Leadership for Broward has only two expenditures:

11/10/2015     5,000.00 MIAMI DOLPHINS, LTD.    EVENT TICKETS                          
11/12/2015     4,240.00 ROBERT WATKINS & COMPANY, P.A.  ACCOUNTING SERVICES
                           ------------
                               9,240.00
2 Expenditure(s) Selected

But didn't the Miami Dolphins giver her $100,000 for her PAC? Five grand to watch the Charlie Tunas choke in football and $4290 for accounting services is all she has spent.

Why is no one investigating this?

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