The 2016 presidential race is already dominated by super PACs and other groups that under federal law can take unlimited checks. In Perry’s case, for example, the trio of super PACs account for nearly all the money raised for his campaign so far, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
More than 80% of the money came from just three donors, who put in a total of $15.3 million. The largest sum, $6.3 million, came from Kelcy Warren, an oil and gas pipeline billionaire from Dallas; an additional $5 million came from another Dallas billionaire, Darwin Deason. A $4-million contribution came in from a third donor whose name has not been released.
Warren is not a typical, passive donor; he also serves as finance chairman of Perry’s campaign. In February, Perry took a seat on the board of directors of Warren’s firm, Energy Transfer Partners. Warren was at a Washington hotel recently when Perry, appearing at an Opportunity and Freedom event, gave a speech denouncing GOP rival Donald Trump as a “barking carnival act” — and saying that the nation needed to expand energy production and end a ban on energy exports….
Another potential risk is tripping over the rules that ban coordination. David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates removing restrictions on campaign spending, says he thinks Warren’s roles as Perry’s finance chairman and mega-donor risk violating those rules. Violations could happen, he said, if Warren were privy to campaign information and then got involved in making decisions for the PAC.
“If he’s someone who’s a finance chair for the campaign, it wouldn’t be a very good move for him to do anything else except give money,” Keating said. “He might not know of any intentions or plans for the campaign, but I think people might have a hard time believing that.”
Stefan C. Passantino, a campaign finance lawyer in Washington, set up the Cruz and Perry super PACs. Having donors to a super PAC be involved in raising money creates no problem, he said — so long as no one shares inside strategic information.
“The campaign can’t tell the super PAC what their plans are on spending or on public communications,” Passantino said. “Being the finance director in the room isn’t anywhere close to that.
“It’s not an issue.”