As a reminder that it’s not the complicated campaign finance laws but the simple ones that will get people into trouble, a straw donor in southern California recently pleaded guilty to a number of federal charges. The charges included:
- Writing a $120,000 check to a super PAC that he knew would be reimbursed by a foreign national;
- Writing a number of checks to local candidates, using money from the same foreign national; and
- Having others write checks to the same candidates using money from the foreign national.
Also ensnared in this case are a political consultant and a lobbyist who assisted with the scheme.
The simple lessons:
1.) Foreign nationals may not contribute to any election – federal, state, or local – in the United States. This includes making contributions to super PACs.
2.) Do not try to evade this rule by giving through third parties or by reimbursing contributions.
3.) Never give a contribution using someone else’s money or that will be reimbursed by someone else.
4.) Do not offer to reimburse someone else for a campaign contribution he or she makes, whether it is through gifts, bonuses, expense reimbursements, a raise, or in any other way.
5.) Only give contributions from your own money, up to the applicable limits. A simple reference card for the federal limits can be found here.