Victory Funds For Some, But Not Others?

Gabriel Gomez uses a 'loophole' outlawed in Massachusetts—after GOP uproar over Dems doing the same thing.

Gabriel Gomez has set up a so-called Victory Fund, which means I must now mock Massachusetts Republicans just as I did two years ago when Scott Brown did it, and again when Mitt Romney did it.

A Victory Fund is a cute way to raise money for a campaign and a supportive outside political action committee at the same time—in this case, the Gomez campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Wealthy donors write a big check to the Victory Fund account, which then doles the contributions out to the two (or more) committees, within the individual limits of campaign-finance law.

It’s not a coincidence that this account was set up just before the upcoming fundraiser with John McCain, as reported by the Globe‘s Jim O’Sullivan. The top ask for that event is $37,600, which is an odd figure until you realize that the most one can give to Gomez is $2,600 and the most one can give to the NRSC PAC is $35,000. Apparently it’s too much to ask rich people to write the two separate checks, so the Victory Fund lets them write one; Keith Davis, treasurer of Gabriel Gomez Victory Fund 2013 (and, not coincidentally, former treasurer of the Brown Victory Committee), can then do the hard work of distributing it two ways.

The main advantage of this is that givers can feel certain that the NRSC will know to use that $35k on its campaign to get Gomez elected, rather than some other effort. Which, by the by, it can do because Gomez won’t sign the “People’s Pledge” to prohibit spending by outside groups.

None of this seems all that horribly unethical to me, but it sure did to Massachusetts Republicans when Deval Patrick did the exact same thing in 2009.

Patrick set up a Victory Fund at the state level in the lead-up to his re-election campaign. It solicited checks for $5,500, from which the fund forwarded the $500 individual maximum contribution to Patrick’s committee, and the $5,000 individual maximum contribution to the state Democratic Party committee—to use helping Patrick get re-elected.

Again, I was never quite clear why this was considered so awful, but the MassGOP slammed Patrick and the MassDems vociferously over this supposedly shady and unethical use of a “loophole” in campaign-finance law, until Deval agreed to give it up. Richard Tisei, who was on the ticket against Patrick in 2010, led a charge that resulted in the arrangement being banned, as part of an ethics reform law.

That ban only covers state election committees, of course; the US Senate campaign is governed by federal campaign-finance laws. That’s why Scott Brown was able to do, the very year after that gubernatorial election, exactly what Patrick had been doing—but with much higher dollar amounts—and why our former governor was able to do it with really big stakes in his 2012 Presidential campaign.

Romney, in fact, arranged it so that his Victory Fund (as I first reported) split its funds not only between the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee, but also with four state-level Republican Party committees. Including, natch, the Massachusetts Republican Party.

According to FEC data, the Massachusetts Republican Party received a total of $9,378,902 via this arrangement it had declared so atrocious and unethical just three years earlier.

No surprise that the Gomez campaign—run by many of the same folks behind the Brown and Romney campaigns—is turning to this same method. And, no big shock that all the Republicans who railed against the Democrats’ use of it are silent when it’s another of their own.