Colorado’s Connection to the Mystery PACs

Fifteen thousand dollars is nothing to sneeze at. Especially when it buys political influence.

The Center for Responsive Politics today released a list of 31 leadership political action committees suspected of being affiliated with members of Congress who hide behind a loophole in federal law that doesn’t require these funds to disclose their own leadership.

While none of the mystery PACs are based in Colorado, one current lawmaker and three challengers were the recipients of some mystery largesse.

  • Marilyn Musgrave (R) incumbent CD-4 – $800 from Improve America PAC, Arizona
  • Bill Winter (D) challenger CD-2 – $1,000 from Leadership Empowerment & Development PAC, Texas
  • Rick O’Donnell (R) challenger CD-7 – $1,000 from Lone Star Leadership PAC, Texas
  • Scott Tipton (R) challenger CD-3 – $2,000 from Serving America’s Citizens, Virginia

Federal leadership PACs are typically established to help politicians boost their prestige among colleagues by funneling campaign contributions to other candidates. The more sprinklings of cash to potential lawmaking allies, the greater the chit that can be called in during roll call on bills or to help secure a prized committee assignment. The PACs can also be used to quietly set the stage to raise money for a higher office.

These funds also provide a convenient and legal end-run around federal law for well-heeled donors. For instance, one can make the maximum allowable $4,600 contribution to a favored federal politician for the primary and general election campaign cycles and then turn-around a quick $5,000 gift each year to the politician’s leadership PAC. In a typical two-year campaign period, a donor can legally direct nearly $15,000 to the candidate’s own campaign and their political star-making vehicle.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a previous effort to require disclosure failed last year. The Leadership PAC Disclosure Act, again sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), is languishing in committee without sponsors.