Senate candidate shuffles cash to keep excess donations - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Senate candidate shuffles cash to keep excess donations

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster). President Donald Trump looks to GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale giving him the thumbs-up during a rally at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark, Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Great Falls, Mont., in support of Rep. Greg... (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster). President Donald Trump looks to GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale giving him the thumbs-up during a rally at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark, Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Great Falls, Mont., in support of Rep. Greg...
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster). President Donald Trump talks with GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale as he arrives on Air Force One, Thursday, July 5, 2018, at Great Falls International Airport, in Great Falls, Mont. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster). President Donald Trump talks with GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale as he arrives on Air Force One, Thursday, July 5, 2018, at Great Falls International Airport, in Great Falls, Mont.

By MATT VOLZ
Associated Press

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale used excess donations from deep-pocketed GOP donors to pay himself back for personal loans from a previous congressional run, then he turned around and loaned that money right back to his Senate campaign, according to campaign records.

That accounting shuffle, first reported by The Daily Beast, has given the Montana candidate a way to fund his campaign against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester with money given by donors above the individual campaign contribution limits.

Campaign finance watchdogs said Thursday that what Rosendale is doing is unusual but legal, and effectively raises contribution limits from $5,400 to $8,000 for some donors.

"This is a legal form of money laundering in order to help a handful of wealthy donors get around federal contribution limits," said Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan group focused on campaign finance, voting rights and other issues.

It would be illegal if the donors knew that Rosendale planned to use their money for his 2018 campaign instead of paying down his previous campaign debt, Fischer said.

Montana Democrats cried foul and said Rosendale is skirting campaign finance rules.

"This kind of deceptive tactic is par for the course for Matt Rosendale," said Brooke Bainum, spokeswoman for the Montana Democratic Party. "It's no surprise that an out-of-state guy depending on out-of-state special interests to prop up his campaign would resort to shady fundraising tactics that skirt the law to benefit himself."

Rosendale spokesman Shane Scanlon did not return a call or email for comment.

Rosendale, who is trying to deny Tester a third term, is furiously fundraising after an expensive four-way June 5 Republican primary depleted his campaign of cash. He has attracted the interest of Republican donors and outside groups as a challenger in one of 10 races in the nation where a Senate Democrat is defending a seat in a state won by President Donald Trump in 2016.

Trump himself heightened the interest in the Montana race after taking a personal interest in defeating Tester, who he blames for tanking his nominee to head the Veterans Affairs department, Ronny Jackson. Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., have each been to Montana to campaign for Rosendale after the president vowed that Tester would have "a big price to pay" for derailing Jackson over allegations that are now being investigated by the Pentagon.

Rosendale's accounting procedures appear to give him a way to help close the money gap with Tester, who had more than $6 million in cash as of May, by squeezing a little extra from big GOP donors.

In Rosendale's May campaign finance report, he re-designated $22,300 in contributions from nine donors as debt repayments for Rosendale's failed 2014 campaign for U.S. House. Two other donations totaling $6,900 had been requested for re-designation.

On May 14, Rosendale's campaign cut Rosendale a check for $32,831 to pay off a portion of the personal loans Rosendale made to the 2014 campaign.

The next day, May 15, Rosendale issued his Senate campaign a new loan in that same amount - $32,831.

Federal law allows candidates to re-designate excess contributions to pay off old campaign debt. Those donations count toward campaign contribution limits set for the 2014 election, meaning they don't apply to the 2018 limits. Rosendale doesn't have to return the money to donors that included Home Depot co-founder Marcus Bernard, Ariel Corp. executives Tom Rastin and Karen Wright and Rytec Corp. head Donald Grasso.

Six of the nine donors whose contributions were re-designated to the 2014 debt have now donated $8,000 to Rosendale's campaign this election cycle.

It's a loophole in the law that only can be exploited by candidates who can afford to lend their campaigns large sums of cash, then sit on that debt for years, said Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.

"This scheme that was developed by Rosendale's campaign is something that can only be used by very wealthy candidates who had previously run for federal office," Fischer said.

The campaign still owes Rosendale $176,863 for personal loans, according to campaign finance reports.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • National politicsPoliticsMore>>

  • Democratic socialism surging in the age of Trump

    Democratic socialism surging in the age of Trump

    Saturday, July 21 2018 1:05 AM EDT2018-07-21 05:05:45 GMT
    Saturday, July 21 2018 5:23 PM EDT2018-07-21 21:23:13 GMT
    In all corners of America, democratic socialism surging in the age of Trump.More >>
    In all corners of America, democratic socialism surging in the age of Trump.More >>
  • Trump finds it 'inconceivable' lawyer would tape a client

    Trump finds it 'inconceivable' lawyer would tape a client

    Saturday, July 21 2018 9:26 AM EDT2018-07-21 13:26:09 GMT
    Saturday, July 21 2018 5:23 PM EDT2018-07-21 21:23:08 GMT
    (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File). FILE - In this April 26, 2018 file photo, Michael Cohen leaves federal court in New York.  President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer secretly recorded Trump discussing payments to a former Playboy model who said she h...(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File). FILE - In this April 26, 2018 file photo, Michael Cohen leaves federal court in New York. President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer secretly recorded Trump discussing payments to a former Playboy model who said she h...

    President Donald Trump claims that his former personal lawyer's taping of their private phone conversations is "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.".

    More >>

    President Donald Trump claims that his former personal lawyer's taping of their private phone conversations is "totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.".

    More >>
  • Congress abandons bid to reverse Trump deal with ZTE

    Congress abandons bid to reverse Trump deal with ZTE

    Friday, July 20 2018 5:14 PM EDT2018-07-20 21:14:36 GMT
    Saturday, July 21 2018 5:21 PM EDT2018-07-21 21:21:54 GMT
    Congress is abandoning an effort to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE in a defense bill. (Source: CNN)Congress is abandoning an effort to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE in a defense bill. (Source: CNN)

    Congress is abandoning an effort to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE in a defense bill.

    More >>

    Congress is abandoning an effort to clamp down on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE in a defense bill.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly