A prominent, pro-Trump super PAC has decided to shut down after information came out that the PAC was tied too closely to Trump. It’s legal for super PACs and campaigns to work together in certain ways; in fact, many current presidential candidates have super PACs backing them that are run by friends or close associates. For the Make America Great Again PAC, however, those ties were just too much.
The Washington Post reported on the connections between Make America Great Again and Trump earlier this week, which include two payments from Trump’s campaign to companies directly connected to Make America Great Again, and its head, Mike Ciletti. After this was exposed, Ciletti said, according to the Post:
It’s an issue that I have relationships with Mr. Trump’s staff. I will eliminate the questions and shut down the super PAC.
Ciletti also has a relationship with Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and also solicited a donation from a huge GOP donor using contact information he got from Trump’s personal assistant. He insists that the latter activity occurred before Trump actually entered the presidential race.
The unlimited spending ability of super PACs has led to calls for overturning the disastrous Citizens United decision from 2010. Supposedly, PACs are required to remain independent from candidates, however, according to a different story in the Post, there’s a loophole that allows candidates to have certain kinds of relationships with these PACs.
Can anybody say “conflict of interest”? The Post says this situation is basically the following:
Under Federal Election Commission rules, there is no wall dividing candidates and independent groups. In practice, it’s more like a one-way mirror — with a telephone on each side for occasional calls.
The Post also reported that Representative David Price (D-NC) had this to say about it:
The rules of affiliation are just about as porous as they can be, and it amounts to a joke that there’s no coordination between these individual super PACs and the candidates.
Basically, candidates and PACs can work together directly so long as they don’t discuss, or work on, candidate strategy. Price has sponsored legislation to tighten these rules and plug some of these loopholes.
The potential for backlash against this kind of thing is what’s led Ciletti to shut down the Make America Great Again PAC. Increasing knowledge of just how close candidates and these PACs are could, potentially, lead to ever louder calls for overturning both Citizens United and McCutcheon, and to the downfall of candidates like Trump. Not shutting the PAC down would lead to Trump looking more corrupt than wealthy candidates already look.
Will this happen elsewhere, as the media starts to examine other relationships between super PACs and their chosen candidates? Only time will tell. Maybe this is one of the pushes we need to actually pass a Constitutional amendment overturning these two ridiculous Supreme Court decisions.