Sen. Mike Lee may be a freshman, but he has a rare distinction in fundraising. Not only did the Utah Republican open a leadership political action committee shortly after being elected, he created two.
In mid-March Lee opened Lead Encourage Elect PAC, and late last week he opened an affiliated leadership PAC called Constitutional Conservatives Fund. The two groups have yet to disclose any donations but plan on coordinating together to stay within contribution limits.
Lee’s move — while legal — is uncommon. Only two other lawmakers have maintained two leadership PACs concurrently in recent years: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) with Mint PAC and Senate Conservatives Fund and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with PAC to the Future and Team Majority. Team Majority was closed in early 2004.
Lee’s staff said he opened the second PAC because the two organizations have similar beliefs but different goals.
“LEE PAC will focus on like-minded incumbents who support Sen. Lee’s views on the proper role of federal and state government,” Lee spokesman Brian Phillips said. “The Constitutional Conservatives Fund will seek to identify lesser-known candidates for Congress who share Sen. Lee’s approach to constitutionally limited powers.”
Campaign finance reform groups generally oppose leadership PACs but do not see any additional issues with lawmakers having two or more committees.
Under FEC rules, both of Lee’s PACs would have to be affiliated and collectively stay within shared campaign contribution limits. In other words, the groups can have different names, staffs, addresses and bank accounts. But together, they are only allowed to accept a total of $5,000 per calendar year from each individual, party, candidate or political action committee.
Running two PACs at the same time has proved to be a confusing situation for at least one lawmaker. Pelosi had two PACs in operation during the 2002 election cycle. In August 2003, the FEC found that treasurers for Pelosi’s leadership PACs had violated the rules when her two PACs made donations to other candidates that exceeded contribution limits.
Leaders from military and veterans service organizations joined Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Kelly Ayotte , R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a press conference to urge the Senate to replace a provision in the budget proposal that cuts retirement benefits for veterans. Wicker, Ayotee, and Graham earlier called for a bipartisan solution to replace the $6.3 billion in cuts to military retiree benefits.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.