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Rick Perry eyes unused campaign cash for 'super PAC'

February 16, 2012|By Kim Geiger
(Allison Joyce / Getty Images )

Texas Gov. Rick Perry may be out of the presidential race,  but his campaign committee has some cash left in the bank -- and he wants to put it to use.

RickPerry.org, the entity that collected money to fund Perry’s presidential bid, has asked the Federal Election Commission to green light a proposed transformation from a presidential campaign committtee to a political action committee, possibly a “super PAC.”

It’s a plan that appears to have been in the works since before Perry dropped out of the race Jan. 19. That same day, the committee sent out letters asking some donors to redesignate their contributions so the money could be used to fund a new PAC.

As the head of a super PAC, Perry would be able to make independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates, but he would not be able to coordinate with other campaigns.

As an alternative, the committee has also requested permission to steer the leftover funds to his state committee, Texans for Rick Perry, which could use the money for a reelection effort if he wants to remain governor of that state.

It is not unusual for former candidates to try to use funds from their aborted campaigns for other purposes. But presidential candidates don’t typically end their bids with much money left in the bank.

Perry’s presidential committee raised nearly $20 million in 2011 and ended the year with $3.7 million cash on hand. It’s unclear how much Perry raised and spent in the first three weeks of the year.

In his letter to the FEC, Perry campaign treasurer Salvatore Purpura said the campaign stopped accepting and soliciting contributions on the day that Perry dropped out. But the committee had $270,000 that was earmarked for the general election, so it sent letters asking donors to redesignate their contributions.

So far, donors responsible for a total of about $30,000 have agreed to the plan, while donors who gave a total of about $100,000 have requested refunds instead, Purpura wrote.

Purpura claims there is some precedent for this request. He cites the case of former Sen. Chris Dodd, who redirected the remaining funds from his 2008 presidential campaign to his Senate campaign committee. Dodd, who decided in 2010 not to run for reelection, now chairs the Motion Picture Assn.  

“Dodd now has surplus funds in his old Senate campaign account that he can at any time convert to a new non-connected PAC,” Purpura wrote.

Perry’s campaign ended abruptly just days before the South Carolina primary. He immediately endorsed Newt Gingrich, but has done little to boost his former rival’s candidacy.

Make Us Great Again, a super PAC that had backed Perry, announced it would disband shortly after the campaign ended. Scott Rials, the committee’s executive director, said in a statement to CBS that it would be “inappropriate to utilize [donors’] contributions for any other purpose or candidate.”

The super PAC ended the year with more than $600,000 cash on hand and spent at least $332,000 in January.

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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