Tuesday, October 17, 2006


How may political campaign money be spent?

Here's a question that's been extremely relevant to a number of news stories we've seen recently, but that I don't think I've ever seen anyone explicitly address.

Under current law, how may campaign contributions be spent? I suppose House and/or Senate ethics rules might also apply.

There have been cases where a campaign has received money from what turned out to be a questionable source, and in response has donated the money to charity. While donating money to charity can be a wonderful thing, I'm sure it's not what the donor had in mind when he wrote a check to the campaign.

More recently, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has gotten into some controversy because of how he's spent some of his campaign funds [*]. Reporters talk about this, but none of them seem to have bothered to look up what the law actually says.

And neither have I (partly because I don't know where to look, and even if I did I likely wouldn't understand the legalese anyway -- but then I'm not a reporter).

So, does anyone out there have any real answers on this? My readership is not vast, but maybe after I'm famous someone will dig back into my archives and post a response. Hello, future readers!

[*] Footnote: In my opinion, the whole Harry Reid thing is a lame attempt to dig up some dirt on a prominent Democrat, giving the false impression that there' s some kind of parity between Republican corruption and Democratic corruption. There really isn't. Most of the major scandals in the last few years have been Republican scandals, with the Republicans and the media pushing whatever minor issues they can find to imply that it's "bipartisan". It's not just that Republicans are inherently more corrupt than Democrats; who would bother to bribe a Democrat these days?

UPDATE: Atrios has part of the answer (money for federal races can be passed to other federal races). And Democratic representatives with no Republican opposition are being encouraged to make better use of their money, by turning it over to campaigns that can actually use it. But there must be more to it than that. The Miami Herald is saying that Mark Foley may be able to use campaign funds to pay his own legal bills.

Gosh, do you think maybe the folks who wrote the current campaign finance laws thought they might need to be able to use their own campaign funds to pay their lawyers?


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