Sign-on letters

Issue One and Campaign Legal Center urge FEC to curb abuse of leadership PACs

Issue One and Campaign Legal Center (CLC) today sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging commissioners to begin a rulemaking to formally clarify that leadership PAC funds cannot be used by members of Congress for their personal use.

“The Commission has a plain statutory mandate to make clear that the personal use ban applies to leadership PACs,” states the new letter. “In the absence of clear rules, leadership PACs have become commonly used as slush funds to subsidize officeholders’ lifestyles.”

The letter continued: “CLC and Issue One’s review of leadership PAC reports from the 2020 election cycle found that lawmakers are continuing to use leadership PACs as their own personal slush funds. Per our latest joint report, attached to this letter, 120 members of Congress directed less than half of their leadership PAC spending towards political contributions or independent expenditures last cycle. Forty-three members of Congress spent less than 25% on politics.”

Issue One and CLC have consistently drawn attention to the ways that lawmakers have used leadership PACs to fund lavish lifestyles — including payments to luxury resorts, high-end restaurants, and private jets. Our efforts to highlight leadership PAC abuse has resulted in increased media attention of leadership PACs and heightened scrutiny for members of Congress. Today’s letter is a follow-up to a letter both groups sent in 2018.

By law, federal candidates are prohibited from using the money they raise for their campaigns for their own personal use.

While the FEC has not historically enforced the personal use prohibition in the context of leadership PACs — which were created after the personal use prohibition was written — a plain text reading of the statute makes clear that this prohibition should also apply to money raised for politicians’ leadership PACs, as it says that any “contribution accepted by a candidate” or “received by an individual as support for activities of the individual as a holder of federal office” cannot be put toward personal use.