FEC: Perry can use some presidential funds to create super PAC


The Federal Election Commission green-lighted Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s request to turn the funds he collected for his presidential campaign to other political uses — just not all the funds.

After Perry dropped out of the race for the GOP nomination in January, his presidential campaign asked the FEC whether it could use its leftover funds to create a traditional political action committee or a super PAC — either of which would enable the Texas governor to support other politicians, a traditional way of building goodwill for candidates with national aspirations.

All the commissioners present at the open meeting agreed that Perry could use convert to a PAC and keep the funds it collected for the GOP nominating contest as seed money. However, the FEC failed to reach a consensus on whether the committee can convert general election funds to the new PAC. That effectively fences off about $270,000 of the $675,000 Perry had left in his once-bulging campaign coffers as of the end of last month. 

Democratic commissioners objected to the proposed conversion, noting that there are no regulations that currently allow Perry to convert money given for a campaign in which he never participated. Republican commissioners countered that there is nothing in the regulations that prohibits it.

If a candidate does not participate in an election, the donations must be refunded or reassigned. That means they have to ask the donors to transfer the funds.

The FEC has stated that a committee can ask its donors to reassign its contributions to another candidate’s committee—but it has not, up to this point, allowed reassigning the funds from a candidate’s campaign to a PAC because the PACs are not subject to the same contribution limits.

At the hearing, the two Democratic commissioners that were present were open to writing rules to allow for such a conversion.

“I don’t see a policy reason to not have the money go to a (PAC),” Steven Walther said in the open meeting. “Generally they have the authority to do what they want,” he said.

Before allowing such a maneuver, Commissioner Walther would like to see rules written “with a couple of safeguards,” he said in an interview with Sunlight.

But there’s no reason to not allow the transfer now, according to the opinion backed by the Republican commissioners. Reassigning the funds does not lead to exceeding the campaign contribution limit because they are now applicable to a new limit. Because the contributions could contribute the same amount to the new PAC, “it makes little sense to force the committee to refund all the general election funds and then resolicit them,” the opinion stated.

The Democratic commissioners also voted down RickPerry.org’s request to use the general election funds to donate to Perry’s state campaign committee. It can use its primary election funds to do so.