GOP Rep. Andy Harris Introduces Leadership PAC Bill
Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s (R-Ga.) leadership PAC spent over $100,000 over the past two years on golf outings around the world. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) dropped $35,000 on NFL games through his leadership PAC. This spending wasn't for official business and wasn't for getting re-elected—it was for personal use. But it’s all legal.
By law, members of Congress can’t use donations to their campaigns for personal use. No golf trips or tickets to football games.
But members of Congress have a knack for finding loopholes in election law. In the 1990s, members of Congress began setting up “leadership PACs,” which were started as fundraising committees that could help a member climb up the leadership ladder by raising money from PACs and other Washington interests and then making donations to colleagues.
The ban on funds for personal use doesn’t apply leadership PACs and many members of Congress have been living high on the hog with them, according to a recent 60 Minutes report. Nearly every member of Congress has one and use goes beyond building support with colleagues.
In wake of the report, Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) has introduced legislation that would apply the personal use ban to these extracurricular committees. In a press release, Harris said, “Public opinion of Congress is already low enough. We should close this loophole so no appearance of impropriety exists. By banning the personal use of political committee funds, we can help improve the public trust in Congress.”
According to the release, “The bill will extend the current ban on the personal use of funds by candidate reelection campaigns by clarifying that the ban also applies to leadership PACs, a campaign committee of a political party, and every kind of campaign committee.”
The Clean Campaign Contributions Act currently has two cosponsors, Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and Mark Amodei (R-Nev.).
Over the past few years, Republicans in Washington have grown increasingly hostile to common sense campaign finance restrictions, so it’s refreshing to see someone like Harris push legislation to clean up our broken political system. Let's hope more of his colleagues join him on this bill and others aimed at reducing the influence of special interests in our political process and raising up the voices of regular people.