Joking Across the One Line Left

I haven’t found a full transcript of Mike Huckabee’s announcement of candidacy today just yet, and may have more to say about it when it’s available. But WaPo’s Philip Bump makes good use of a typical Huck jokey jokey to illustrate the wonderful new world of virtually unlimited yet dishonest campaign finance regulation:

“I will be funded and fueled not by the billionaires, but by working people who will find out that $15 and $25 a month contributions can take us from Hope to higher ground,” he said. And then he added, to laughter, “Now, rest assured, if you want to give a million dollars, please do it.” It was mostly a joke. It also violated campaign finance law.

“A federal candidate cannot solicit a million dollars, let’s start there,” said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center when the Post reached him by telephone. “If he’s there announcing his candidacy, he cannot ask anybody for a million dollars. The most he can ask is the contribution limit; from a PAC that’s $5,000.”

Huckabee’s campaign, of course, can’t take a million dollar contribution, suggesting that Huckabee’s comment was pointing people to give to a Super PAC.

That’s forbidden, of course, because Super-PACs are “independent” of candidates. Fund-raising for them has to stop the day you announce–the artificial boundary that lets Jeb Bush raise money like crazy for “his” Super-PACS now but not once he announces.

“It’s what everyone knows — that giving money to the Super PAC is the same as giving the money to him,” Noble added. “The legal fiction is saying, oh, you’re not giving me the money. But in this unguarded moment, he actually spoke what the truth is.”

Better remember to lie, Huck, if you don’t want to get in trouble with the law, which is itself the big joke.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.