Gianforte caught on tape soliciting money earmarked for his own campaign through his victory fund Earmarking funds to benefit your own race can trigger a violation of contribution limits
End Citizens United (ECU) announced today it is filing a complaint with the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) against Greg Gianforte. Gianforte was caught on tape soliciting earmarked campaign contributions to the Gianforte Victory Fund.
The Gianforte Victory Fund is a joint committee the candidate set up with the Montana Republican Party and National Republican Campaign Committee to benefit his campaign. He is not allowed to direct earmarked funds to benefit his own race into the committee because it can trigger a violation of FEC limits.
The amount of money a candidate may receive from one source is limited. To prevent circumvention of these limits, a person who contributes to a candidate cannot contribute to a political action committee that supports the candidate if the contributor knows a substantial portion will aid that candidate.
By telling his donors their contributions would be used for his “get out the vote” operation, which would solely benefit his own campaign, Gianforte may have triggered a violation. He also put his donors at risk of violation.
“It’s clear why Montanans can’t trust Greg Gianfote. He has a history of lying to voters, skirting campaign finance laws, and working against Montana values,” ECU President and Executive Director Tiffany Muller said. “After he was caught breaking his pledge to voters that he won’t take corporate PAC money, we dug deeper into the law and determined he may be breaking the rules. The FEC should immediately investigate the Gianforte campaign and take appropriate action.”
Gianforte’s solicitation was uncovered in reports of a recording of Gianforte on a call with donors, first obtained by CQ Roll Call. Despite a pledge to not accept corporate PAC money, Gianforte told his donors that he would take it into his victory fund.
Although the Gianforte campaign later said the candidate meant to direct the money into the Montana Republic Party, the same law applies. Regardless which committee Gianforte was directing donations to, he would still be breaking the same regulation:
11 C.F.R. 110.2(h) states, a person may contribute to a candidate and also a political committee that supports that candidate, so long as the contributor “does not give with the knowledge that a substantial portion will be contributed to, or expended on behalf of, that candidate for the same election.” If the donor does give to a political committee with the knowledge that the contribution will be expended on behalf of a particular candidate, that contribution must be aggregated with the donor’s contributions to the candidate.