Former presidential candidate Rick Perry is urging the Federal Election Commission to let him convert his presidential campaign contributions into a political action committee -- and is asking whether he might turn his campaign apparatus into a super PAC, able to raise and spend money in unlimited amounts.
In a letter to the Federal Election Commission this week, Perry campaign treasurer Salvatore Purpura writes that the Texas governor ended the campaign with a warchest of $270,000 earmarked for the general election. The campaign is in the process of asking donors for permission to transfer their funds to the as-yet uncreated PAC, Purpura writes. Not all of Perry's backers apparently are interested in furthering his political ambitions: Purpura says that the committee so far has received written requests to refund at least $100,000.
There is precedent for the FEC okaying Perry's request, says Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center: Often retiring members of Congress convert their warchests into PACs, enabling those who become lobbyists to continue to win friends and influence on Capitol Hill.
It's less common for presidential contenders because, as Ryan notes, "it's kind of unusual for a candidate to drop out of a race and still have a bunch of money." Another unusual wrinkle: The possiblity -- raised explicitly by Purpura in his letter to the FEC -- that Perry could become the head of a super PAC. The groups permitted to raise and spend funds in unlimited amounts, as long as they do not coordinate spending with a candidate, have only been legal since 2010.
For Perry, whose ability to raise funds was the strongest suit of his campaign, "that raises a very interesting new possibility," says Ryan. Another intriguing possibility: Joining forces with Make Us Great Again, the super PAC that a Perry confidant formed to support the governor's presidential bid. That committee ended 2011 with more than $600,000 in the bank. Ryan said it's possible that one super PAC could fold up and transfer its funds to the other.
Heading a powerful PAC could help the governor, who recently wowed a crowd of conservative activists in Washington, could maintain a high political profile and lay the groundwork for another national campaign.
As an alternative to a federal PAC, Purpura asked the FEC to consider allowing Perry to deposit his money into his state campaign fund, Texans for Rick Perry. Already the longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry is up for reelection in 2016.