The New Hampshire Democratic Party plans to file a complaint on Friday against Mitt Romney’s Political Action Committees, asking the FEC to investigate whether they violate campaign finance laws.
Romney raised eyebrows last year with an extensive PAC operation that some ethics watchdogs said exploited loopholes to skirt campaign finance laws. By setting up PACs in multiple states, Romney’s top donors were able to contribute many times the maximum amount allowed to a single campaign — $1.5 million from only 38 individuals in 2009 and 2010, according to the Boston Globe. In addition, the PACs were used to finance consultants and staff who now form the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign.
A spokesman for Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC defended their practices earlier this month to the Globe, saying it “follows both the letter and spirit of the law” and that “our PAC operations have always been totally transparent — our donors and expenses are all disclosed regularly and in great detail.”
Campaign finance monitors have suggested that, while not illegal, the donations are a crafty means of avoiding state and federal restrictions. The complaint from the New Hampshire Democrats, however, alleges that because donors to multiple PACs set up by Romney did so with the expectation they were helping Romney’s presidential campaign they constitute donations that run over the maximum federal limit. They further are asking the FEC to investigate whether Romney’s potential presidential campaign, now in its exploratory phase, needs to reimburse his state and federal PACs for expenses by staffers now on board for a presidential campaign. Another issue raised in the complaint is whether state PACs authorized to accept soft money have properly disassociated themselves from Romney now that he has launched an exploratory committee, since presidential candidates face strict federal restrictions on donations.
“Romney’s funneling of campaign contributions from his array of state political action committees to fund his presidential campaign reeks of an Enron-style accounting scheme,” Holly Shulman, communications director of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Mitt Romney just wants to be President - plain and simple - and he’ll take any position, say anything or do anything to get there.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.