In his presidential campaign announcement on Tuesday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee emphasized his status as a Washington outsider who would not be “funded and fueled” by billionaires. But as he decried wealthy donors’ influence in the political system, he also ran afoul of federal election law. Mr. Huckabee said his campaign would be funded by “working people who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground,” he said, a reference to Hope, Ark., where he was speaking. But, he cracked: “Rest assured, if you want to give a million dollars, please do it.” Not so fast. Individuals are only permitted to give up to $2,700 per election to a candidate, according to Federal Election Commission rules. Though in a joking manner, Mr. Huckabee was likely making a pitch to the audience on behalf of a super PAC, Pursuing America’s Greatness, that he formed last month to back his campaign. Super PACs can accept unlimited donations from individuals but are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns.
There’s just one hitch: Under FEC rules, candidates are only permitted to solicit up to $5,000 in donations to super PACs backing their campaigns. To be sure, there are ways around this rule—candidates can appear at super PAC fundraisers that solicit more than $5,000 from attendees, as long as the candidates themselves don’t ask for it.
“It would be illegal for him to solicit $1 million whether for his campaign or his super PAC,” said Larry Noble, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, which calls for reducing the influence of money in politics. “For him to suggest that if you want to give $1 million to give to the super PAC undermines the whole concept of independence.” The group is considering filing a complaint against Mr. Huckabee.