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Mike Braun: Another Republican Senate Candidate Caught Dodging Campaign Finance Laws

Another week, another shady Republican campaign finance gimmick: A new report from the Indianapolis Business Journal finds that former Representative Mike Braun used a “finance ploy” to circumvent donation limits and plow more special interest cash into his campaign.

This report comes on the heels of the Daily Beast exposing wealthy east coast developer and Montana Senate Candidate Matt Rosendale’s use of an “audacious accounting maneuver” to make an “ambitious end-run around campaign finance laws.”

From Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein: “Rosendale and Braun are making their priority clear: take in as much special interest cash as possible to prop up their campaigns and fuel their political ambitions. Whether Braun and Rosendale are utilizing shadowy campaign finance tactics or pushing a wildly unpopular health care agenda that spikes premiums, imposes an age tax and jeopardizes coverage for pre-existing conditions, these two keep proving they only care about advancing their own self-serving political agenda.”

Indianapolis Business Journal: Braun appears to use finance ploy to free up more money for campaign

Key Points:

  • Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun continues to pump his own money into his campaign, and appears to be engaging in the controversial but legal practice of using donations for retiring debt from his primary race to boost his general election campaign.
  • Braun indeed raised nearly $1.5 million since the primary, but he has also loaned the campaign about $350,000 since then. From April 19 to June 30—the dates of the latest campaign finance report—he has loaned the campaign nearly $1 million.
  • About $270,000 of the donations Braun received from individuals and political action committees in this time period were intended for primary debt retirement.
  • Federal campaign finance law allows donors who did not max out their primary election contributions to donate up to $2,700 for debt retirement in addition to the $2,700 they are allowed to give for the general election.
  • On May 29 and June 4, Braun repaid $53,104 in debt in two payments, and then on June 5, he loaned the campaign $53,104.
  • On June 14, he repaid $15,809.10 in debt, and then loaned the campaign the same exact amount four days later on June 18.
  • On June 25, he repaid $24,432.25 in debt and on the same day loaned the campaign the same exact amount.
  • The accounting gimmick could allow wealthy donors to effectively double their contributions for the general election from $2,700 to $5,400 if they give the maximum amount for primary debt retirement and the maximum amount for the general election—and many donors have done so.

Daily Beast: GOP Senate Hopeful Cooks Books, Skirts Donation Limits

Key Points:

  • Tom Rastin and his wife, Karen Wright, kept giving Rosendale more than the $5,400 each individual can legally donate to a campaign per election cycle. And each time, twice to be exact, Rosendale’s team was forced to refund the excess donations.
  • But with some creative accounting, it appears the the Rosendale campaign figured out a way around the limits – not only for Rastin and Wright, but for other max-out contributors to the campaign.
  • It’s a pretty ambitious end-run around campaign finance laws made possible only by Rosendale’s extensive personal wealth.
  • Rosendale, Montana’s state auditor, ran for a House seat in 2014, and lent his campaign $1.3 million for the unsuccessful effort. He’s now using the same campaign committee to mount his Senate bid, and when this cycle’s campaign began, the committee still owed Rosendale about $237,000.

 

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