Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has asked the Federal Election Commission for permission to hire a full-time assistant for post-retirement help.
The Nevada Democrat wants to use campaign cash from the Searchlight Leadership Fund, his leadership PAC, to pay an aide to help clean out his office, book post-Senate media appearances and cover other costs associated with winding down his tenure in leadership and the Senate.
According to an Oct. 22 letter that Reid's lawyers sent to the FEC, the assistant would "review, organize and arrange for transportation and storage of archival and office materials; manage officially-related correspondence; fact-check and draft materials relating to [his] tenure in office; schedule and organize appearances in which Leader Reid will discuss his tenure in office; and perform related clerical duties."
Unlike former speakers of the House, who get taxpayer dollars for post-retirement duties, there is no appropriation for former Senate majority leaders to maintain an office related to their previous gig.
Reid's lawyers point out that the FEC in 2001 approved a similar request by former Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., to use campaign funds to help him respond to news stories about his service record during the Vietnam War.
By law, leadership PAC contributions to authorized campaign committees are limited to $5,000 per election. But Reid's lawyers argue paying winding-down expenses has "no plausible election-influencing purpose" and is therefore not a "contribution."
An Oct. 27 email attached to the advisory opinion request clarifies that once the post-retirement tasks cease to exist, Reid would no longer use campaign funds to pay the staffer.
The Searchlight Leadership Fund had about $61,000 in the bank as of June 30, according to its mid-year campaign finance report filed with the FEC.
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