Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul formally declared on April 7, 2015, that he wanted to live in the White House.
“Today I announce, with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate for president of the United States of America,” Paul told a crowd in Louisville.
After that, Paul’s presidential campaign committee legally was required to cover the costs of his run for the White House. Until then, his Reinventing A New Direction PAC was allowed to pay his exploratory campaign costs.
Though Paul’s PAC already had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars around the country on the sort of “testing the waters” expenses typical of someone running for president — travel, political consultants, staff payroll, catering, media production, printing, donor lists, mass mailings — his spokeswoman now says none of those expenses were for the benefit of Paul’s presidential campaign.
The catch is, Paul’s campaign would have to reimburse the PAC once he declared, said Paul Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington. Under these circumstances, the Federal Election Commission gives presidential campaigns 30 days to make a reimbursement.
“Otherwise, it becomes a contribution, subject to the same contribution limits as any other political action committee,” Ryan said. “A leadership PAC should not be subsidizing a presidential campaign.”
But Paul’s presidential campaign, which ended in failure in February and reports a $317,365 debt, does not appear to have reimbursed RAND PAC. Further, Paul spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper contends the PAC played no role in the presidential race.
“RAND PAC has never incurred any expenses related to Senator Paul’s presidential campaign — either before or after April 7, 2015 — so reimbursement is unnecessary,” Cooper said.
RAND PAC paid Paul’s presidential campaign adviser Doug Stafford, his Iowa political director Jonathan Van Norman and the Manchester, N.H., political consulting firm employing his New England chief strategist, Michael Biundo. RAND PAC paid the Florida security company that guarded Paul on the presidential campaign trail and the Washington law firm that served as the presidential campaign’s legal counsel.
Cooper declined to explain those payments made by the PAC to the presidential campaign’s vendors. Speaking generally, she said, the work those vendors did for the PAC was entirely unrelated to the senator’s White House run.
“RAND PAC’s purpose is to help elect candidates who favor limited government. The PAC does so by, among other things, making contributions, distributing communications and paying for travel costs necessary to promote its message and like-minded candidates,” Cooper said. “None of the payments you listed were in any way associated with Senator Paul’s presidential campaign.”
Reports at the time suggested the PAC was helping Paul further his presidential ambitions. In an early 2015 profile of Stafford, the Washington Times wrote: “Mr. Stafford serves as RAND PAC’s executive director. Its staff and advisers are in effect Mr. Paul’s 2016 GOP pre-campaign organization, clearing the way for his 2016 election bid.”
Today, RAND PAC is all but broke. It raised $883,772 during this election cycle, gave only 3 percent of its money away to Paul’s fellow Republicans — which initially was the purpose of leadership PACs — and reported having $53,811 left in its account of March 31. The PAC burned through most of its cash in those early months of 2015 before Paul said, “Today I announce.”