Virginia Tightens Rules on PACs Formed by Out-of-State Politicians

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

RICHMOND, May 7 -- Virginia is preparing to impose a law designed to stop out-of-state politicians from funneling unlimited amounts of money through the commonwealth, which has no restrictions on how much individuals or businesses can donate.

In recent years, former governors George E. Pataki (R-N.Y.) and Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.), a presidential candidate, have established Virginia-based political action committees even though they don't heavily contribute to candidates in the state. The politicians use the committees to collect unrestricted amounts of money to pay for their political activities across the country, allowing them to skirt campaign finance laws in their own states.

But starting July 1, people with political action committees registered in Virginia will have to make sure that at least half the money they collect is distributed to candidates running in Virginia.

"There had been a number of people using our laws to raise unlimited amounts of money and unrestricted amounts," said Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria), who sponsored the bill that would change the law.

But the law is not retroactive, meaning that money candidates are currently raising doesn't have to be spent in Virginia. In recent weeks, Pataki has been stepping up fundraising for his Virginia-based 21st Century Freedom political action committee.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks money in state politics, Pataki has collected $568,000 from nine people since Feb. 21. The donations include an April 19 check for $250,000 from Bob Perry of Texas, who helped finance the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in his 2004 presidential bid.

Pataki, who says he is not running for president, also received $100,000 from Hushang Ansary, a New York GOP activist. Several New York developers have also recently sent Pataki $25,000 or $50,000 donations.

They are in addition to $1.8 million Pataki transferred last year from his "Friends of Pataki" campaign account into a second Virginia-based political action committee, Pataki PAC.

By sending contributors to his two committees through Virginia, Pataki can avoid New York's campaign finance laws, which limit individuals to $150,000 a year in contributions to state candidates or political action committees. Alicia Preston, a Pataki spokeswoman, said the former governor isn't raising the money so he can "beat the deadline" before the law takes effect. She said Pataki will "fully comply" with Virginia's law.

"He is raising money to continue efforts to spread the Republican message and be part of the national dialogue throughout the country," Preston said.

Huckabee's Hope for America committee has raised more than a half-million dollars since it was created in 2005. The committee, which has collected $12,000 so far this year, has $124,000 in the bank, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. Arkansas limits donations to PACs to $5,000 a year.

Even though they are raising the money here, Pataki and Huckabee haven't been using the money to help Virginia candidates.

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