Common Cause on June 15 urged U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint a special counsel to investigate possible criminal violations of campaign finance laws.
The watchdog nonprofit made the call as Jeb Bush officially announced his candidacy for president.
“It’s good to see Gov. Bush acknowledge what has been apparent for some time — he is a candidate,” said Common Cause president Miles Rapoport. “Unfortunately, he and other candidates in both major parties have been testing the limits of laws that were sensibly designed to limit the influence of big dollar donors in our elections and our government. Because the Federal Election Commission is paralyzed by the partisan split among its members and thus unable to act, the Justice Department must see that the laws are enforced.”
Evidence provided to the U.S. Department of Justice in late May by Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center more than justifies their request for appointment of a special counsel to investigate fundraising by Bush for his Right to Rise super PAC and an affiliated non-profit organization, Rapoport said.
And whoever is appointed should have authority to extend the inquiry to cover fundraising by other candidates as needed, whether the candidates are declared and undeclared, Republican, Democratic and independent, Common Cause said.
Bush tweeted a message on December 10, 2014, saying, “I am excited to announce I will actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.”
Since then, he has helped the Right to Rise super PAC in a reported quest to raise $100 million by the end of June, including some contributions of $1 million or more, despite the federal limit of $2,700 on solicitations by candidates.
“Today’s announcement is not the first time Gov. Bush publicly has called himself a candidate,” Rapoport noted. “But for months he also has insisted that his mind was not made up. Today’s declaration is powerful evidence that his apparent indecision was a convenient way to skirt laws that limit fundraising by candidates while he helped Right to Rise and its nonprofit arm collect six- and seven-figure checks, including some from anonymous donors.”
Rapoport said the law makes it clear that anyone who behaves like a candidate, declared or not, must observe campaign finance laws.
Even those who are simply “testing the waters,” are subject to fundraising limits, he noted.