Following yesterday’s post about Sen. David Carlucci possibly getting a tough general election challenge, a reader with ties to the Senate Democrats made an interesting point about challenges the Independent Democratic Conference faces defending its seats outside the traditional two party structure.
The Senate Democrats, as an arm of an actual political party, can spend unlimited amounts supporting their 26 members – and can receive unlimited transfers from the members’ campaign committees – though their authorized campaign committee, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC).
The Republicans can do the same for their 32 members, through their authorized committee, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee (SRCC).
But the IDC’s political action committee — which has reported raising $224,000 — can only transfer $10,300 to their four candidates for a general election race, and can only transfer $6,500 for a primary. That’s because the IDC isn’t affiliated with an actual political party.
That may or may not be an issue if the IDC members face primaries against candidates backed by the debt-ridden Senate Democrats.
But those restraints could well be an issue if Carlucci or State Sen. David Valesky face tough general election fights against the cash-flush Senate Republicans, according to my source.
“It’s a real problem for Dave [Carlucci],” the source said, “because I’m not clear where he gets a million dollars, or even half a million, to run a competitive race in a tough district.”
It’s possible that the IDC PAC could use the rest of its money for independent expenditures not coordinated with the four IDC members or their campaign staffs.
But that could also raise issues, said the source close to the Senate Democrats, who called that set-up “completely illegal” because the four members of the IDC were themselves heavily involved in raising the PAC’s money. (Note this invitation to a recent $1,000-a-head fundraiser.)
Yet opinion on this point is mixed. An election lawyer I consulted with said such a set-up could be possible since there is “no prohibition on PACs spending as an independent expenditure under New York state election law” — though the spending may have tax consequences.
In a statement, IDC spokesman Rich Azzopardi declined to get into the weeds of the conference’s internal campaign strategy, but did reference the fact that the IDC has no debt, while the Senate Democrats currently have $1.7 million.
“New Yorkers want responsible legislators who will put progress over partisanship and work to improve their lives,” Azzopardi said. “The recent filings are proof that this message, backed up with the IDC’s real record of results, is resonating. We will have the resources, the momentum – and the lack of debt – to preserve and expand the Independent Democratic Conference.”
A source notes that Carlucci already has more that $259,000 on hand — well on his way to have $500,000 for a potentially tough general election.
A prominent election lawyer writes in with the following explanation of why a PAC could not use its money for independent expenditures:
“PACS cannot make independent expenditures. Independent political committees can. The difference is that PACS can raise unlimited amounts from contributors, but can only give, within statutory limits, to political committees. Political committees, on the other hand, can make unlimited expenditures for their candidates, but are limited in what they can accept from contributors.”
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