More Information on 'Leadership PAC' Rider


Using an unrelated transportation bill, Senate leaders Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have quietly inserted a provision that would overturn a post-Watergate reform designed to prevent an incumbent from transferring large sums of money to his own re-election campaign from a slush fund he operates. The slush fund is cleverly called a "Leadership PAC."

"Leadership PACs," which often contain hundreds of thousands of dollars, are political committees that an incumbent member of Congress cannot currently use to fund his re-election campaign. They can use the money to pay for "official duties," or to make limited campaign contributions to other candidates and party committees – which allows them to curry favor with lawmakers.  

Under the proposed loophole-opening provision there would be NO RESTRICTIONS on how much of the Leadership PAC money can be transferred, or how the parties can use this money. This would permit officeholders to “launder” unlimited funds from their Leadership PACs to party committees, which could then spend all the funds in support of that officeholder’s re-election campaign. This would provide a huge and unfair financial advantage to incumbents over their challengers, who cannot set up Leadership PACs.

The provision also would greatly increase the influence of big-money contributors with Senators Individuals and corporations can give far more money to Leadership PACs than to election campaigns. Individuals can contribute up to $4,200 to a senator in an election cycle; using this loophole they could contribute $34,200 – 8 times more. Corporate and union PACs can contribute up to $10,000 to a senator in an election cycle; using this loophole they could contribute $40,000 – 4 times more.