PA-Sen: FEC May Probe Toomey Super PAC Contribution

Pat-ToomeySen. Pat Toomey could face a Federal Elections Commission inquiry after reports surfaced of a $50,000 donation from his political action committee to another one expected to back him for re-election next year.

In January, Toomey’s leadership PAC, Citizens for Prosperity in America Today, made the contribution to Prosperity for Pennsylvania, a Super PAC run by former Toomey aides.

Prosperity for Pennsylvania’s treasurer Mark Dion was Toomey’s chief of staff while serving in the House of Representatives, while assistant treasurer Chad Kolton served as the Club for Growth’s communications director while Toomey was president of the group.

This contribution is thought to be the first example of money flowing between a leadership PAC – “directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled” by a candidate or lawmaker – and a Super PAC whose “apparent sole purpose,” is to help that candidate or lawmaker’s election efforts.

The contribution itself is not against FEC rules, technically, unless Prosperity for Pennsylvania uses it to back Toomey in 2016.

“It’s really hard to rationalize this being legal if that’s what’s going to happen,” Larry Noble, former general counsel to the FEC and senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center – a campaign-finance reform group – told Paul Blumenthal of The Huffington Post. “Once the leadership PAC gives to the super PAC, I would argue that the expenditures by the super PAC are no longer independent.”

Even if the money is spent on Toomey’s re-election bid, it’s unclear whether the FEC has any real authority.

Prosperity for Pennsylvania is beginning to stockpile money 16 months out from the election. The Super PAC has received $100,000 from Green Orchard, Inc. – described as a PA-based “dark money” group by Blumenthal – and $25,000 from Coordinated Health’s political action committee.

33 Responses

  1. We see how easy it is to steal an election. So, which Western nation’s VoterID laws don’t you like?

  2. Unsanctioned R-

    The objection is NOT to ID’s but rather the specific forms of ID that are being chosen to disenfranchise the poor (who often don’t have driver licenses).

    The PA law didn’t allow county election boards to issue IDs (even though they were the ones registering you, and your mailed registration card would no longer have been allowed). Photo ID cards for teachers and city workers weren’t allowed under PA’s voter ID law either.

    The purpose of the law in PA was to stop hundreds of thousands of people from voting.

  3. All those other progressive nations with VoterID must be wrong then.

  4. Unsanctioned R

    I have little doubt that some Philly election judges commit voter fraud, but NONE of it would be prevented by voter IDs. What good would an ID be if the judge was going to say you matched the ID even if you didn’t? Duh.

    But, the judges engage in different kind of fraud, by directing voters to wrong machines in a primary, giving them incorrect instructions, and altering their votes when they forget to push the button to finalize their votes.

  5. I’m sure the Philly poll workers will catch and stop me before I get out the door. That is, when the judge of elections isn’t rigging the machine. You’re a deacon of the faith David.

  6. It’s Math-

    1) It’s a project veritas video from that scam artist James O’Keefe (who cut his videos to make it look like he was dressed like a pimp from a 1970’s cop show, when he wasn’t dressed that way at all)

    2) The person video-taping didn’t actually vote (and risk fines and jail time)

    3) If you look at timestamp 2 minutes 24 seconds and freeze the video, the guy filming the video shows the name of a Thomas McCarron, date of death 12/14/2011. However, the date stamp in the lower left of the video is 2011.03.28, more than 8 months BEFORE the “dead” person he’s claiming to impersonate has died.

    4) At timestamp 4:17 in the video, he supposedly poses as a 86 year old Roger Groux who died on 12/31/2011 (day before New Year’s) and the video stamp is 2012/01/02, two days later. Besides the fact that there would be no time to update records over the holiday weekend, and that Monday Jan 2nd, 2012 would have been a holiday, and that the primary was still 8 days away… you can’t see the person he’s getting the form from, nor any proof that he’s at a polling place. Besides, from his voice, he’s clearly a young man, and not 86 years old.
    So, it’s not credible that he’s posing as an 86 year old man, or that someone would need an ID to verify that he’s not 86.

    5) There is no video of any of the times he got stopped, or questioned.

    6) This wasn’t part of a coordinated campaign to get droves of fake people to vote in hopes of tipping an election.

    7) In person voting as a dead person risks someone there knowing the deceased. This is a HUGE risk.

    8) In some (if not all counties) in PA, the election board gets data from the coroner’s office and removes the deceased from the rolls.

    9) In PA (at least where I vote) the date of birth is on the voter slip in the voter rollbook as well as a signature.

  7. A candidate has never coordinated with a Super PAC.

    Opponents of CitizensUnited/Constitution want to censor speech because they think voters are too dumb to hear it.

  8. It’s Math-

    1) In person voter fraud is the most difficult and rarest form.
    2) There have been NO cases of it tipping an election.

    The many other types of voter fraud that do exist are not solved by t he voter ID proposed voter ID laws. Those laws are designed to disenfranchise minority voters by limiting the types of IDs to types they don’t have, and ignoring/disallowing valid forms of ID that they do have.

  9. Rule of thumb: when it’s so easy to commit vote fraud, it’s obviously being done in every statewide and national election. Q.E.D. Close recounts are stolen elections at least 50% of the time. U.S. can do better.

  10. We may need a VoterID law like Texas’s to solve MN and VA and ensure the democratic choice is elected. But I’ll settle for one like [insert progressive western democracy here].

    I agree Planned Parenthood is a bad comparison. Especially because they charge the government $10 for $4 contraceptives. They’re a whole other racket.

  11. Unsanctioned R-

    If you are referring to allegations of ex-felons voting as fraud, then you must realize that they would still have driver’s licenses and photo ID, so they wouldn’t be impersonating other people.

    Maybe this will help explain it:

    Russell John-
    99% of the activity at Planned Parenthood is not related to abortions, and they charge for abortions. People are going to them for health services and counseling. This is completely different than collusion between a political campaign and related PAC.

  12. Fungibility is a bad argument for illegality. For example, we don’t convict your employer for providing you the money you chose to buy drugs with. The FEC has a three-pronged test for coordination that’s worth reviewing. So often the colloquial definition of coordination is confused with the court standard which is meant to protect free speech. Maybe “coordination” isn’t the word we should use.

  13. Should have been “I wonder if David Diano realizes he is using…..”

  14. I wonder if David Diano is using the same argument used by those who want to stop government funding of Planned Parenthood, i.e. Government funds free up contributions for abortions so government funds support Planned Parenthood performing abortions? An argument I an pretty sure he calls ridiculous in that instance.

  15. And yet voter fraud gave us Franken (accepted history) and thus Obamacare, Virginia’s AG and on and on. When will we join the rest of the civilized world and progressive nations who have VoterID?

    Your “rule of thumb” and “obvious” witness of coordination was a laugh out loud moment.

    I know the Constitution and our First Amendment freedoms give you sour grapes. Shall I call you a waaaambulance?

  16. Unsanctioned R-

    Voter impersonation fraud at the polls is rarer than a Bigfoot sighting at the polls.

    The voter fraud that does exist occurs mainly in the form of absentee ballots. Other fraud like double-voting, intimidation or misinforming voters is caused by the workers at the polls colluding with the candidates or party. A voter-ID system would have ZERO affect on these types of fraud, since corrupt poll workers wouldn’t check IDs anyway.

    The bang-for-the-buck of impersonation fraud is simply not worth the effort and risk. It’s easier to just bring more people to the polls (or even pay people to vote).

    For the super-PACs, there millions of dollars involved, so the bang-for-the-buck is huge and the risk of getting caught is small because the FEC is weak and it’s hard to enforce without extensive wiretaps, emails and other documentation (or whistle-blowers), even when the coordination is obvious.

    The kind of coordination in the Tyler Harber was more than the usual as he was personally paid a percentage of the super PAC’s expenditures.

    A few articles on the subject of coordination:

    Explanation of how easy it is:

    Some questions about Bush’s campaign:

    And here’s a story about how Clinton supposedly plans to coordinate by exploiting a loophole in the rules:

    “However, a 2006 FEC rule exempts “public communications” — like unpaid posts on websites or blogs — from such regulations… The FEC rules specifically permit some activity – in particular, activity on an organization’s website, in email, and on social media – to be legally coordinated with candidates and political parties”

    The basic rule of thumb is when there are millions of dollars at stake, there is corruption and violations of the rules in secret or performed in a way that leaves little evidence.

    Voter impersonation simply cannot be done on a large scale, risks the poll workers knowing the real person, and is a terrible waste of resources. That’s why it’s so hard to find any cases of it: it’s bad strategy that doesn’t work

  17. For some reason few voter fraud convictions equals no voter fraud and one coordination conviction equals lots of coordination. You know David, for an atheist you sure can exhibit a lot of faith.

  18. The constitution doesn’t say you can buy elections nor that more money = more rights/speech. These PACs circumvent campaign finance laws/limits and obviously coordinate and support specific candidates.

  19. I don’t plan to repeat myself, but calling this contribution coordinated or a bribe doesn’t make it so. ‎ I agree it sounds like sour grapes over settled constitutional law. 

  20. This sounds like sour grapes. He explained how this is not exceeding limits. You don’t like the Constitution? Think people are dumb? Start a petition for the dumb people to sign–“I’m too dumb for free speech, let’s abridge it, Yea!”

  21. Matt-
    No voter identity fraud.
    Lot’s of PAC coordination with candidates.

    What you are calling “unlimited speech” is unlimited bribery and purchasing of elections. It’s the same idiocy that decided corporations are people.

    You wrote:
    “We have to stop patronizing the public and allow them to discern based upon the content of the message. They are smarter than some of us give them credit”

    This is wrong in two primary ways:
    1) it allows candidates backed by wealth donors to exceed campaign limits and dominate the airwaves with “message” (ie propaganda) while making the candidates beholden to them
    2) half the country is too dumb to believe in evolution and 1 in 4 thinks the Sun goes around the Earth. If that is “smarter”, we are big f*cking trouble.

  22. David,

    Yours is not an example of “coordination.” As a matter of fact, given the facts as you’ve stated them, the SuperPAC would not even need to go through the mechanics of reallocating the non-Toomey dollars.

    Like voter fraud, we’ll have to agree to disagree about how much actual law breaking goes on. But, it’s simply not necessary in Toomey’s case.

    The Supreme Court got it right by applying the long-held precedent of strict scrutiny to the cases which finally came before it challenging campaign finance laws. Unlimited speech is common sense that antedates our founding with examples of printed handbills and copies of Common Sense, pun intended.

    I think you’ve got it backwards. Adelson has always been able to spend whatever he wanted on federal elections. Citizens United/SpeechNow didn’t change that. SuperPACs are actually a means to level the playing field by empowering individuals to bind together and put out a message of their own. In Citizens United, Justice Kennedy puts it this way:

    “The remedies enacted by law, however, must comply with the First Amendment; and, it is our law and our tradition that more speech, not less, is the governing rule.”

    We have to stop patronizing the public and allow them to discern based upon the content of the message. They are smarter than some of us give them credit. Justice Kennedy also wrote:

    “Quite apart from the purpose or effect of regulating content, moreover, the Government may commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the
    disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The Government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration.”

    To quote the Patriot News Editorial Board, “Kennedy nailed it.”

  23. Matt-
    Let’s say they want to spend $60,000 on non-Toomey media and $140,000 on pro-Toomey, but have only raised $140,000 of their $200,000 goal.

    So, they’ve got $60,000 earmarked for non-Toomey and $80,000 earmarked for Toomey.

    Then, Toomey gives them $60,000. Now, they aren’t going to add it to the existing $60,000 for a total of $120,000 for non-Toomey. They are going to take the original $60,000 earmarked for non-Toomey and re-mark it for pro-Toomey. Then take the “new” $60,000 and earmark it for non-Toomey.

    This of course is no different than the $60,000 going directly to pro-Toomey in a coordinated fashion.

    Unlimited cash is not proper free speech and the supreme court got it wrong because there is clearly coordination and collusion.

    Billionaires like Adelson shouldn’t have more rights/speech, and be able to put money into PACs that are really extensions of federal campaigns and by-pass the limits on large contributions (aka bribes).

  24. David,
    Let’s try and remove some confusion. The Supreme Court established a strict scrutiny standard for limiting speech, which includes dollars used for Public Communications. What’s restricted are the funds any individual may donate to a federal candidate. Thus if Toomey (or an agent) crossed the firewall and directed a SuperPAC to earmark leadership PAC donations for Public Communications in his race, you could argue coordination.

    But, unless every dollar of the SuperPAC’s budget is spent on Toomey-supporting Public Communications, which is highly, highly unlikely, you cannot even argue illegality as Mr. Noble does.

    Even if the SuperPAC spends every dollar on Pro-Toomey Public Communications (in defiance of their FEC registration to the contrary) you could argue there’s still no evidence of coordination. After all, when you send a donation to Voters for Hillary, or a SuperPAC run by John Podesta, you can assume how it’ll be spent without engaging in illegal activity.

    Overall, it is the SuperPAC’s duty not to make illegal expenditures, which would include a donation from a SuperPAC to a leadership PAC. Not the other way around because the PAC’s donations have already been restricted. For example, Toomey’s official candidate PAC could even donate to a SuperPAC registered as only supporting his candidacy. The difference here is that Toomey’s leadership PAC could have donations from individuals who have already maxed out their restricted donations to his candidate’s PAC. Even still, leadership PACs can make expenditures supporting Toomey’s candidacy, but not Public Communications.

    There are a myriad of ways this could go down that do not violate the narrow restrictions on speech established by the Supreme Court.

    As Lawrence Lessig knows, we live under a Constitution which guarantees yours and my unlimited speech and spending on speech so long as our unlimited money isn’t controlled by a federal candidate.

    The black robes have spoken and the constitution’s protection of our rights has been made clear. Unlike getting a marriage license or a concealed carry permit, no government agent is required to engage in free speech, so unconstitutional efforts to curtail it are easily circumvented.

    The strict scrutiny standard, which allows only narrow restrictions to Public Communications, is something to be thankful for this Independence Day. Unlike the brownshirts who want to muzzle political discourse, I have confidence in the discernment of ordinary Americans to separate the wheat and chaff when it comes to hearing Public Communications. Fortunately, Justice Kennedy agrees.

  25. Matt

    There is plenty of illegal coordinated with these PACs. I doubt if there are any that don’t coordinate behind the scenes, because they share relationships with the candidates and/or members of the campaign staff. (They don’t even have to pass through Kevin Bacon to be connected.)

    This case seems pretty blatant in terms of “intent”, but hard to prove before actual action is taken.

    No one is against free speech. However, we don’t want the rich buying the microphone/megaphone and effectively making illegal/unlimited contributions.

  26. Pretty unethical to post a headline like that when (1) by your own admission, Toomey and his Leadership PAC haven’t done anything illegal, and (2) you have no sources indicating that the FEC has expressed any interest in looking into the claim.

    It would be no different than someone writing an article “FEC May Probe Jason Addy for Illegal Campaign Contributions” because you might do it in the future.

  27. There are so many errors of reasoning in this article, I don’t know where to begin. Let me just point out the 3 most important words–“I would argue.” I have crossed paths with the Campaign Legal Center before and they repeatedly allow confused reporters to write untrue conclusions based upon their leading quotes. Mr. Noble’s opinion is flat wrong and there is nothing inappropriate about this contribution. It does not violate any legal definition of coordination. In addition it comes from individuals’ contributions which have been limited to a candidate and are fully disclosed.

    The CLC’s problem is with the First Amendment. Because they know they cannot repeal it, they sew dissent by preying on the public’s (and journalists’) confusion of the issue. Kudos to them for repeatedly using their free speech rights to mislead the public.

    This is going nowhere because it is, as it should be, a perfectly acceptable contribution.

  28. “The contribution itself is not against FEC rules, technically, unless Prosperity for Pennsylvania uses it to back Toomey in 2016.”

    ““It’s really hard to rationalize this being legal if that’s what’s going to happen,””

    So….. given the exposure of this story and that they haven’t spent it on Toomey yet, it’s a solid bet that they won’t but rather will use it for some other purpose. Duh.

  • Who Will Be Speaker of the PA House on February 28?

    • Joanna McClinton (68%)
    • Mark Rozzi (27%)
    • A Republican TBD (5%)

    Total Voters: 315

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