In the last presidential race Super PACs started later in the process. Now they have begun operating before individuals even announce their presidential candidacy. The Washington Post explains, “That’s because once they announce their bids, federal rules require them to keep their distance.” The Republican leader of the pack appears to be Jeb Bush who is is headlining $100,000-a-head fundraisers with the hope of gaining an unassailable early lead. Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, says, “We’re seeing a bending and an abuse and an evasion of federal campaign contribution limits to an extent that we’ve never before seen.” However, a sharply divided Federal Election Commission has deadlocked over whether to even open up enforcement investigations since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.
Gov. Christie who has yet to announce his candidacy has jumped into this Wild, Wild West world with both a Political Action Committee, which can accept up to $5,000 from donors, and a Super PAC, which can accept an unlimited amount. The Political Action Committee, LEADERSHIP MATTERS, was registered with the FEC in January by Christie confidante Bill Palatucci. According to Bloomberg News “It has lured 41 donors.” At no more than $5,000 a pop it is not much to brag about so far. The Super PAC AMERICA LEADS was registered in late February by Treasurer Timothy Koch and is headed by Phil Cox, former executive director of the Republican Governors Association where Christie served as Chair last year. Each group have set up staff with Cox serving on both. There is no report yet from the FEC on donations from either group.
Christie is fully engaged and making use of what some political consultants might call “best practices,” but others concerned about mega donations would call “worst practices.” So far he is way behind in the polls, and it appears he is not doing particularly well in raising funds. Recent news in New Jersey regarding court actions on the Pension Fund and affordable housing, combined with further revelations on close Christie associates involved with Bridgegate and the Exxon Mobile settlement are probably not helping him.