Jeb Bush hasn’t officially announced his presidential campaign yet, and now we know why. By not formally declaring his intentions to run for President, he can receive unlimited, secret campaign contributions without having to disclose what individuals or corporations are funding him. The loophole, which many are calling suspect but technically legal, is a disgrace to an already disgraceful system that favors big pockets, at the expense of normal voters.
The 501 (c)(4) organization that is handling his finances is the “nonprofit” Right to Rise Policy Solutions, set up by former Walmart CEO Will Simon, who just left the role within the last year. Oddly, it was created at the same time as the Super PAC Right to Rise, which also supports Mr. Bush.
This is very concerning, because this allows candidates to do all the same things as a normal candidate would do, and be able to essentially skirt campaign finance laws by taking in “dark money” from unknowable sources that then shape a candidate’s policy views. With Super PACs, you at least know who is providing the money, and it keeps candidates from directly coordinating with their backers (in a perfect world).
That is exactly what Will Simon is doing for Jeb Bush.
Not only does this pose problems for the obvious democratic reasons, but technically, foreign entities even could donate money directly to a candidate and never have to disclose either. Who is to say that they aren’t already doing this?
Mr. Gross, a former head of the Federal Election Commission’s enforcement division, says this can be seen as a type of competitive advantage for candidates.
I certainly see it as another source of funding that other campaigns are likely to follow suit on because they can accept any kind of money.
The Right to Rise advocacy group was started in Arkansas, of course, considering Mr. Simon’s Walmart background. Mr. Simon has come on the record by declaring his group’s intention is primarily to create a conservative message and vision for Mr. Bush, not to provide fundraising. While he tried to make this seem as a positive thing, it is actually worse.
Allowing secret entities to skirt around the law and shape a candidates fundamental campaign views is just sickening. If this is allowed to continue, future candidates will wait until the very last minute to officially announce their run.
This doesn’t mean Bush isn’t drawing fire from groups seeking to reduce the influence of money in politics. Fred Werheimer, head of Democracy 21, said:
It’s exceedingly difficult to explain how the Super Pac and policy organization are independent from Jeb Bush. It’s just one more example of making a mockery of the laws and counting on the fact that no one is expected to enforce them.
His group is trying to get the FEC to pay attention to what is going on. But, some people don’t think it will make any difference. One of those voices is Anthony Herman, a former general counsel of the FEC.
I am certain with the level of sophistication of these political operatives, they will steer comfortably around the FEC. It is very, very, cleverly designed.
Right now, Bush is touring the country doing town halls, speaking at universities, and even taking photo-ops with babies. He could at any moment “decide” that he wants to run for President, but for some reason he just doesn’t see any incentive to do so yet. With loopholes like these, we don’t blame him.