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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Super Pacs, with murky regulations and unlimited money, find down-ballot races



WASHINGTON — When Anthony Farhat set up a political committee backing Paige Kreegel, a congressional candidate in southwest Florida, he said he blocked Kreegel's number from his phone "to be overly cautious."

"I knew super PACs were being held under high scrutiny," Farhat said.

In the fast-evolving, big-money super PAC era, the airtight seal Farhat projects is generally accepted as rule of law. "My goodness, if we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the Big House," Mitt Romney once said.

Reality is quite different.

Under Federal Election Commission rules, Kreegel can still interact with Farhat and he can help the super PAC raise money. Two of Kreegel's friends donated more than $1 million, which is being used to attack his opponents in the Congressional District 19 GOP primary.

The maximum contribution had they given directly to Kreegel: $2,600.

If 2012 was the breakout for super PACs in the presidential campaign, 2014 marks their down-ballot arrival. More and more, committees are being established with the purpose of backing a single candidate. One usually spawns another. The pro-Kreegel group Values Are Vital has been matched with one supporting Lizbeth Benacquisto, another Republican in the special election that effectively will be decided in the April 22 primary.

The trend raises new questions about the murky regulations surrounding outside groups and the lax enforcement of those rules. It has injected unprecedented amounts of money into local elections.

Full story here.

[Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 11:55pm]


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