In this case, Rangel was allegedly able to use money from those lobbyists to fund his defense.
AFLAC, for instance, gave $15,000 since Rangel’s troubles began and $51,000 since 1999. Likewise, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees gave the maximum $15,000 since 2008 and has given Rangel $70,000 over the years. JPMorgan Chase, MetLife, the Service Employees International Union, and the American subsidiary of Credit Suisse have all also given the maximum $5,000 per year since Rangel’s legal troubles began in 2008. This just scratches the tip of the iceberg of the multiple pages of donations on the FEC’s website.
Anderson said the reason for the payments from the leadership PAC is simple as well: “He started running low on cash in the campaign committee.”
“We break it down in the complaint,” Anderson said. “When he started running low on cash in his principal campaign committee you see huge sums of cash spent from the leadership PAC.”
Additionally, NLPC maintains in its complaint that the payment of Rangel’s legal fees by the National Leadership PAC amounted to an illegal campaign contribution.
The contribution limit for a multicandidate political committee to a candidate’s authorized committee is $5,000 per candidate, per election. As stated in the FEC’s Campaign Guide for Nonconnected Committees:
All contributions to federal candidates from non-connected committees during the 2007 to 2008 election cycle are subject to the following limits:
$5,000 per candidate, per election, from a non-connected committee that qualifies as a multicandidate committee. 1 10.2(b)
This contribution limit applies to in-kind as well as direct contributions. Therefore, the National Leadership PAC’s payment of $393,000 in legal fees for Rep. Rangel dramatically exceeded contribution limits mandated by 11 CFR 110.2(b).
Leadership PACs may make contributions to candidates, indeed that is one of their functions, but those PACs are subject to the same restrictions as individuals, corporations, and other PACs — $5,000 per year.
According to Anderson, the final reason Rangel paid his fees from his National Leadership PAC rather than form a legal defense fund may come down to one word: hubris.
“I think he thought with the Democrats in control of Congress this whole thing would just go away,” Anderson said.