Broadcast evening news programs on ABC, NBC, and CBS completely ignored likely Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's questionable delay in announcing his campaign while he sidesteps campaign laws and continues coordinating with his super PAC. Despite increasing scrutiny of a strategy that “tests the legal definition of [a] candidate,” the nightly news programs have devoted zero coverage to the matter since The Associated Press (AP) first reported on it in April.
Jeb Bush's Questionable Dealings With His Super PAC, Right To Rise, Are Facing Increasing Scrutiny From Legal Experts And Campaign Watchdogs
AP: Bush's Delayed Announcement Allows Him To “Spend Time Raising Money” For His PAC And "Take Part In Strategic Campaign Planning." On April 21, AP reported that Jeb Bush was preparing “to give traditional campaign[s] a makeover” by outsourcing many campaign functions to his super PAC, Right to Rise. According to the report, because campaign finance laws prohibit candidates from certain coordination with their PACs, by delaying the formal announcement of his candidacy Bush has been able to “spend time raising money for the super PAC and take part in strategic campaign planning” that would otherwise be prohibited:
The strategy aims to take maximum advantage of the new world of campaign finance created by a pair of 2010 Supreme Court decisions and counts on the Federal Election Commission to remain a passive regulator with little willingness to confront those pushing the envelope of the law.
For Bush, the potential benefits are enormous. Campaigns can raise only $2,700 per donor for the primary and $2,700 for the general election. But super PACs are able to raise unlimited cash from individuals, corporations and groups such as labor unions.
The primary complication of Bush's plan is the ban on coordination. For example, if the campaign decided to change its focus from one issue to another, it could not share that decision with the super PAC.
One way Bush is already addressing the coordination ban is by frontloading his efforts inside Right to Rise. Because he is not yet a candidate, he can now spend time raising money for the super PAC and take part in strategic campaign planning under its auspices. [AP, 4/21/15]
The New York Times: Bush “Tests The Legal Definition Of Candidate” By Raising PAC Money Without Announcing Run. The New York Times wrote in a June 3 article that Jeb Bush is “test[ing] the legal definition of [a] candidate” by delaying the announcement of his candidacy in order to continue to coordinate with his PAC. Pointing to a recent letter from campaign watchdog groups urging the Department of Justice to investigate whether Bush had broken the law by doing so, the Times quoted legal experts claiming that Bush is “mak[ing] a mockery” of campaign laws:
The lawyers say Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor, is stretching the limits of election law by crisscrossing the country, hiring a political team and raising tens of millions of dollars at fund-raisers, all without declaring -- except once, by mistake -- that he is a candidate.
Some election experts say Mr. Bush passed the legal threshold to be considered a candidate months ago, even if he has not formally acknowledged it. Federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate and thus subject to the spending and disclosure restrictions. Some limited activities are allowed for candidates who are merely “testing the waters” for a run.
Last week, two campaign watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, called on the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Bush had broken election law by evading restrictions on candidates.
The groups called his noncandidacy “a charade” and called on prosecutors to intervene because they said the F.E.C. -- perpetually gridlocked -- was unlikely to do anything. [The New York Times, 6/3/15]
Face The Nation's Bob Schieffer: “Pretty Obvious” Bush Is Running For President As He “Rais[es] Huge Amounts Of Money For [His] Super PAC.” On the May 31 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer pointed out that Jeb Bush's coordination with his PAC has raised multiple complaints from campaign finance experts who claim he may be “violating campaign laws.” At a miminum, Schieffer asked Bush if he was “violating the spirit of the law” :
[CBS News, Face The Nation, 5/31/15]
Broadcast Evening News Failed To Devote Even A Single Segment To The Controversy
Network Evening News Completely Ignore Bush's Problematic PAC Coordination. According to a Media Matters analysis of transcripts of ABC's World News Tonight with David Muir, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, and NBC Nightly News broadcasts between April 21 to June 2, the evening news programs made no mention of Jeb Bush's PAC coordination.
Media Matters used Nexis to search prime-time programming on ABC, NBC, and CBS between April 21 and June 2 for the terms “Jeb Bush” or “Bush” and “Right to Rise,” “pac,” “campaign finance,” “political action committee” and “dark money.”