Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit on April 17, 2015, in Nashua, New Hampshire.
(Pseudo-non)candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit on April 17, 2015, in Nashua, New Hampshire. In February, the Campaign Legal Center, a group which works on campaign finance reform issues, released a “white paper” contending that many of the leading potential presidential candidates were likely breaking federal law by not declaring their candidacy or setting up a “testing the waters” committee for a presidential election run. Such a declaration, among other things, limits donors to giving only $2,700 to the (would-be) candidate for the presidential primary season. It was an excellent report, but many shrugged off its findings as just one more way in which the campaign finance system has begun to unravel since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
But news this week that Republican (pseudo-non)candidate Jeb Bush intends to outsource much of his campaign to an allied super PAC reveals that Bush’s decision to delay declaring his candidacy has allowed him to undermine one of the last rules in campaign finance law. Worse, his approach will be the new model of presidential funding in future elections and greatly increases the threat that large donors will have even greater influence over electoral and policy outcomes than they already have.
The idea that Jeb Bush is not “testing the waters” for a presidential run is absurd. He is appearing at presidential candidate forums, traveling to early primary and caucus states, and leading the Republican field in fundraising.
Worse, his approach will be the new model of presidential fundraising in future elections.
While Bush isn’t alone in delaying his formal campaign announcement and the rules that go with it, he has created unprecedented connections with the “Right to Rise” super PAC, whose sole purpose appears to be the election of Bush as president.* The Sunlight Foundation reported that Bush has already headlined 47 events for his super PAC, with five more events this week. And the Associated Press reported that once Bush becomes a candidate, he plans to outsource many of the core functions of his campaign to Right to Rise, including expensive television advertising and direct mail.