Sen. Rand Paul could have a financial edge over many of his prospective presidential rivals in 2016 due to a quirk in timing and election law that lets him to tap his biggest donors for campaign cash twice. Paul has said he plans to seek Senate reelection and, if he runs, the Republican presidential nomination simultaneously. And because he would be campaigning for two federal offices, he would be eligible to have two open federal campaign committees at the same time. Thus, his largest donors could give $2,600 to his presidential primary campaign and another $2,600 to his Senate account for the primary. While federal rules do limit how he could spend the money, veteran election lawyers say diligent accounting could allow for legal cost-sharing between the two committees, saving Paul’s presidential bid precious dollars and letting him collect bigger checks from his biggest contributors. “The two big advantages you can think of are the ability to double-dip from donors and the ability to allocate your costs between two different entities,” said Neil Reiff, a Democratic campaign lawyer.
Election lawyers say Paul could conceivably split the salaries of his top advisers between the two committees, divide the rent for his campaign headquarters and share some fundraising costs. In theory, his Senate committee could even buy television ads ostensibly for his reelection in the media markets of neighboring states such as Ohio (the Cincinnati market), West Virginia (Charleston), and Tennessee (Knoxville and Nashville) that cover parts of Kentucky and yet could boost his presidential prospects.
So while Paul’s pursuit of two campaigns simultaneously has proved to be a headache in Kentucky (where state law forbids appearing on the same ballot twice) it looks to provide him with a small but potentially significant cash advantage.
In contrast, none of the potential GOP candidates who will be out of office or in governorships—Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Mike Pence, Scott Walker, among them—will be able to have two open federal committees.
“I guess Chris Christie, or any other candidate, can declare he’s running for Senate so he could double-dip, too,” Reiff said sarcastically.