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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio says identity of person who gave $13.5 million to group supporting him is 'irrelevant'

Tax form showing donations to Conservative Solutions Project

Tax form showing donations to Conservative Solutions Project

Math test: What is the percentage increase from $5,400 to $13.5 million?

249,990 percent. The other acceptable answer -- a-freaking-lot.

The $5,400 figure is how much an individual can directly give to a federal political candidate — $2,700 each for the primary and general election. The second one is how much one person gave to a group supporting Marco Rubio for president.

That person’s identity may never be known because he or she gave to Conservative Solutions Project, officially known as a 501(c)(4) but commonly referred to as a “dark money” group because donors do not have to be revealed.

That anonymity is a major difference with super PACs, which can also take unlimited donations but must disclose names.

Rubio, in an interview was quick to note the differences.

“They can’t run ads saying, ‘Vote for Marco Rubio.’ They just can’t. I know they ran ads because I saw them on TV and they were nice and they were good,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times. “But I had nothing to do with it.”

(Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics notes that nonprofits do often say vote for a specific candidate or cause; the Rubio group, to the best of our knowledge, avoided that. More here.)

The Rubio group paved new ground in presidential elections, experts say, just as Jeb Bush did by raising tens of millions for a super PAC before he became an official candidate. Both are the subjects of complaints from campaign finance watchdogs.

Rubio appeared comfortable overall with the practice, saying money is needed as long as the media charges for advertising. He mentioned First Amendment rights. “But legally, I’m not allowed to know anything about them or work with them, so I didn’t.”

Still, what about the fact that someone gave so much and their identity may never become public?

“For me, it’s irrelevant because as far as I’m concerned, if someone decides to be helpful, they are buying into my agenda,” Rubio said.

“My agenda’s in writing. … And as a result of that agenda, I had people that were for me and I had people that were against me.”

Rubio has said that before but he's also said he's "always supported disclosure."

He said he had nearly $70 million spent against him from super PACs and other entities in addition to “significant earned media in which people took opportunities to attack because they didn’t like what I stood for.”

The Center for Responsive Politics obtained a tax document indicating the monster donation (plus others ranging from $10,000 to $100,000) to the pro-Rubio group. It also connected dots between the group and Rubio’s consultants and a similarly named super PAC, Conservative Solutions PAC, which also raised and spent millions to help his presidential campaign.

As the Center reported:

“The (c)(4) and the super PAC shared staff, a building, and vendors, and most of those vendors were being paid by the campaign itself. Though the super PAC is a political committee and CSP holds itself out as a 501(c)(4) organization that’s not supposed to be primarily political, the nonprofit bankrolled a raft of polling and research on voters in early primary states and spent millions on pro-Rubio TV ads that aired in those states.

“About a week after its broadcast ads stopped, the super PAC arm picked up where the nonprofit left off using the same media buyer, Target Enterprises."

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 1:08pm]


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