Money Matters: Pre-campaign finance


As well-known politicos dance around the idea of a presidential bid in 2016, it leaves a gray area for campaign finance limits. They aren’t technically presidential “candidates,” so do they have to play by the rules?

Well, technically a prospective candidate has to form an exploratory committee for a presidential bid. Donald Trump formed an exploratory committee this week, which he has done in the past without kickstarting an actual campaign for president.

But some 2016 potential candidates are dipping their feet in the unlimited campaign finance pool, supporting ally Super PACs and not thinking twice about contribution limits. But once they announce a presidential bid, the limits are strapped on. At that point, the candidate cannot ask for donations higher than $5,000.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush founded the Right to Rise Super PAC, which has no spending limits. Other candidates are linked to 527 committees that can receive unlimited contributions from  corporations and unions, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s Our American Rival committee.

Some have contested the legality of raising funds as an unofficial candidate, which could then be transferred to use for an actual election. And as new candidates keep  pushing the limits, the precedents set by Citizens United v. FEC will have to be reviewed.


Others have either formed their own PACs, that come with certain limits on contributions:

• New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Leadership Matters PAC

• Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania: Patriotic Voices

• Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley: O’Say Can You See

• Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Huck PAC

• Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky: Reinventing a New Direction

• Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont: Progressive Voters of America

• Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida: Reclaim America PAC

• Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas: Jobs Growth & Freedom Fund