The Washington Post

Santorum accused of illegally steering $1 million donation to super PAC

A campaign finance watchdog has filed a complaint against former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, referring to reports that Santorum or his campaign may have illegally urged a donor to donate $1 million to a super PAC supporting Santorum.

The donor, energy executive William Dore, in a recent interview said he approached Santorum about giving his campaign $1 million. He initially said Santorum urged him to instead give the money to the super PAC, Red White and Blue Fund, which can accept unlimited donations. Santorum's campaign is subject to much lower contribution limits and could not accept such a donation.

Dore later recanted, saying it was Santorum's staff who directed him to give to the super PAC.

The Campaign Legal Center, in its complaint, notes that campaign finance law allows candidates to solicit donations to super PACs, but those solicitations are subject to the same contribution limits as their campaigns. So while Santorum's campaign could tell Dore to contribute a maximum of $5,000 to the super PAC, it cannot urge him to donate $1 million to it.

“Mr. Doré’s account of his interaction with Mr. Santorum and his staff, if true, reveals a clear violation of federal campaign finance law,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.

Santorum spokeswoman Virginia Davis said Santorum did nothing wrong.

"We have not received a copy of the complaint and when we do, we will refer it to our attorney," Davis said. "We are confident that neither Sen. Santorum nor any campaign staff member solicited funds in excess of the federal limits or from sources prohibited under federal law."

Here is a clip from the initial report by the Sunlight Foundation:

When a reporter expressed surprise on hearing that Santorum directed Doré to the super PAC, Doré backtracked. "I don't want to get him in any sort of problem," Doré said. "I would not want to compromise his future."

Doré then suggested that Santorum had asked him to give it to the Republican Party, not the super PAC. When told by a reporter that Santorum would not have suggested the Republican Party because the maximum donation would only be around $30,000, he confirmed that it was the super PAC that was discussed.

In a follow-up interview a few hours after the first one, Doré backtracked further. "After reflecting on that comment, I said to myself: Did he actually tell me that? I don't think he did." He maintained that it was Santorum's aides, not the former senator, who told him about the super PAC.

...

What's legal and what's not rests on a fine distinction: Federal candidates cannot request  -- explicitly or implicitly -- contributions beyond what the law legally permits their campaign committees to receive. But, a donor may voluntarily discuss larger amounts, Ryan said.

Dore wound up contributing $2.25 million to the Red White and Blue Fund.

Santorum, who finished second in the GOP primary last year, is considering another presidential campaign in 2016.

Updated at 2:04 p.m. with comment from Santorum's spokeswoman.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Listen
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.