A $1 million check given to U.S. Rep. Mike Pence’s campaign for governor this spring is fueling questions about influence over Indiana elections. And not just because of the check’s size — although the donation was the first single contribution to an Indiana gubernatorial candidate to reach seven figures in nearly a decade. The issue: a loophole between federal and state election laws makes it impossible to pinpoint exactly who supplied the money. That shroud of secrecy raises the possibility that corporations could skirt a $5,000 contribution limit set by Indiana law, campaign finance experts say. In fact, one Indiana gambling company — barred by state law from giving directly to a candidate at all — is staying involved in politics by instead donating to federal political organizations, including the Republican Governors Association. That is the group behind the super PAC — now called RGA Right Direction — that sent the check to Pence.
Though the RGA is the PAC’s sole funder, its support is drawn from money donated by contributors to the RGA, including many large corporations. An RGA spokesman defended the arrangement, saying its donors could not earmark donations for a specific candidate. Pence is far from alone in benefiting. Such big PACs are more active than ever. His Democratic opponent, John Gregg, has received more than $43,000 from the RGA’s Democratic counterpart and its PAC. However, the sheer size of the Pence donation — amounting to nearly one-fifth of his haul this year — demonstrates how much influence can be quietly exerted on an election.