For months, White House hopefuls from both parties have been raising millions in unlimited contributions at upscale fund-raisers from Manhattan to Palm Springs, Calif. — all without officially declaring themselves candidates and becoming subject to federal caps on contributions. Only a few of some 20 would-be presidential candidates have even bothered to set up the exploratory committees that were once a time-tested way to declare interest in the White House — and that set off their own fund-raising restrictions. But two leading campaign finance groups charged on Tuesday that the spread of these unofficial campaigns in recent months was not only deceptive, but also illegal.
The groups, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, filed formal complaints with the Federal Election Commission against four undeclared candidates for president: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Rick Santorum, all Republicans, and Martin O’Malley, a Democrat. Both organizations favor more restrictive regulations governing how political money is raised and spent.