San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi doled out wads of cash to her Democratic colleagues in the months leading up to the November 5 mid-term elections.Ê She raised and distributed more money than any other member in the U.S. House of Representatives.Ê In fact, her prolific fundraising may well have earned Pelosi the overwhelming support in her caucus to replace Dick Gephardt as House Minority Leader despite being labeled "out-of-touch" with mainstream America by many in her own party.
Pelosi's fundraising tactics have now made her the subject of a formal investigation by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
On October 25, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that Pelosi's twin leadership political action committees, PAC to the Future and Team Majority, were being intentionally used to circumvent long-established campaign fundraising and contribution limits.Ê The FEC formally acknowledged this week that the matter was under review.Ê
Pelosi's circumvention scheme enabled her donors to "double-up" on their contributions, giving twice as much money than is permissible under federal law.Ê According to Leo McCarthy, the treasurer of both PACs, "The main reason for the creation of the second PAC [Team Majority], frankly, was to give twice as many hard dollars" to candidates.Ê But federal election law is strikingly clear with regard to this matter, as it requires multiple PACs under the control of the same person to be subject to contribution limits as if they were one.Ê
Perhaps even more disturbing is that McCarthy, when initially questioned, claimed he had received approval from the FEC for the creation of the joint committees. That claim turned out to be untrue, as the FEC has no record of having given Pelosi or McCarthy an opinion.ÊÊ
Within 24 hours of NLPC filing its complaint Pelosi halted Team Majority's activities, and some of the candidates who reaped the benefits of the PAC have returned their contributions.Ê
According to NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm, "No member of Congress has ever set up a second leadership political action committee to evade contribution limits.Ê Representative Pelosi has been a strident supporter of campaign finance reform, yet she's been caught violating the clearest and most basic law of all, the limits on contributions."Ê
A decision by the FEC is not expected for several months.Ê Yet it is unlikely Pelosi will get more than a slap on the wrist for her malfeasance.ÊÊ She will continue to gobble up the cash, even without her beloved twins.Ê But all the money in the world will be of no help to House Democrats if their new Minority Leader, Ms. PAC-Man, undertakes her new leadership role with the same disregard for the law that she used to get there.November 21, 2002